Friday, February 26, 2010

CDCR Implements Public Safety Reforms to Parole Supervision, Expanded Incentive Credits for Inmates

Legislative Changes, New Policies Intended to Improve Parole System While Reducing the Overall Inmate Population

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Monday will launch, as required by a new law, public safety reforms to encourage inmates to complete rehabilitation programs, to improve supervision for high-risk parolees and to better partner with communities in managing minor parole violators.

By prioritizing supervision, creating incentives for inmates to complete programs that are proven to reduce recidivism, and with the addition of other reforms, California’s prison population is expected to be gradually reduced by about 6,500 inmates over the next year.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October signed Senate Bill x3 18, authored by Sen. Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego), which also adjusts property crimes for inflation and requires CDCR to assess the risk of each parolee. The new law improves the current parole system by allowing parole agents to focus supervision on the more serious offenders, reducing parole agent caseloads, creating a new line of field supervision for field agents including field training officers, and implementing a new outcome-based case planning process that provides incentives for parolee success.

“I consider this reform to be a landmark achievement in improving public safety in California,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This fundamentally changes how we view successful parole supervision from a system that focused mainly on revocation to one that measures both public safety and how well parolees reintegrate into society.”

Improving Parole Supervision

The new law and reforms will improve the parole system in several important ways, including:

Creates a system of “summary” or “non-revocable” parole for certain low-risk parolees. These low-risk parolees will be subject to standard parole search and seizure conditions but will not be subject to traditional parole supervision upon their release from prison. This creates a $100 million savings while allowing agents to focus their attention on higher-risk parolees deemed more of a risk to the public;

Establishes and expands drug and mental health reentry courts for parolees to receive highly-structured treatment rather than being returned to prison for violations that may be related to those needs;

Codifies the recently implemented “parole violation decision making instrument” which helps determine the most appropriate sanctions for parolees who violate their conditions of parole based on their risk to reoffend;

In addition to the reforms established in SB x3 18, CDCR will implement parole reform strategies to protect public safety, including:

Reducing agent caseloads to an average of 48 parolees for one agent from the previous ratio of 70 to one. This gives agents a better opportunity to supervise parolees more aggressively, and interact more frequently with local law enforcement, rehabilitative service providers and other community partners;

Placing 1,000 parolee gang members on active GPS supervision and will add 2,000 electronic tracking devices for parole violators as an alternative to incarceration;

Increases monitoring requirements for sex offenders on parole who are supervised using Global Positioning System;

Reclassifying some existing parole positions to create 190 parole supervisors to oversee line-level parole agents;

Adding 30 field training officers to maintain proper training standards for parole agents; and

Using measurement guidelines for supervision that focuses on a parolees successful transition into the community rather than how many times they are revoked.

“These new laws and policies will transform how California supervises parolees that are actively living in our communities today,” said Secretary Cate.

Inmates Can Earn Time Credits

The new law will allow offenders incarcerated in a California prison to earn up to six weeks per year off their sentences by completing certain rehabilitation programs such as earning a GED or obtaining a vocational certificate. These programs are proven to reduce crime and assist in a successful transition into society.

In addition to the six week incentive, the new law will:

Extend existing time credits to include day-for-day credit for time served in the county jail from the time of arrest for specified offenders;

Provide two days of sentence credit for every one day after an inmate completes firefighting training;

Provide two days of sentence credit for every one day an inmate works in an institution firehouse; and

Provide a consistent rule of one day of credit for every day served for all eligible inmates whether they are on a waiting list for a full-time assignment, participating in programs, or undergoing reception center processing, so long as the inmate is discipline-free during that time;

Continue policies that cause inmates to lose credits for criminal misconduct, rules violations and violence in prison.

Increases Monetary Limits of Theft Crimes

The minimum monetary value for some grand theft crimes, such as theft by an employee, access card theft, and theft of a dog, have increased to $950 from the previous $400 threshold. The threshold for basic grand theft will remain unchanged.

Improve Local Probation Supervision

The state will be authorized to annually allocate money into a State Corrections Performance Incentives Fund to be used to improve local probation supervision practices and capacities. Specifically, the money targets community corrections, keeping low-level probationers out of state prison, and shares any cost savings with local entities.

For additional information regarding non-Revocable Parole, please see our Parole Section.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homicide Investigation

Crescent City – Officials at Pelican Bay State Prison are investigating the death of an inmate as a homicide.

On Saturday, February 20, 2010 at approximately 8:55 p.m., correctional officers discovered inmate Daniel Sierra, unresponsive inside his cell on the Facility B, maximum-security general population yard at Pelican Bay State Prison. Staff immediately began life saving measures in an attempt to revive Sierra. Those attempts were not successful and Sierra was pronounced dead at 9:26 p.m.

Sierra, 55, was received by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on November 7, 1995, from San Diego County. Sierra was sentenced under California’s Three Strikes Law and was serving a term of 26 years to life for receiving stolen property. Sierra had multiple prior convictions including burglary, battery and receiving stolen property.

Inmate Samuel Atwell, who was housed in the same cell with Sierra, is the suspect in the investigation. Atwell, 39, was received by the CDCR on April 19, 1991, from Sacramento County. Atwell was serving a term of 40 years to life, following a conviction for first-degree murder and second-degree robbery.

“This incident is under investigation by our Investigative Services Unit. Because this is an active investigation and an autopsy has not yet been completed, we will not be releasing specific information concerning inmate Sierra’s death.” Pelican Bay State Prison Public Information Officer Lt. Ken Thomas said. “I am able to confirm that sufficient evidence exists, which links inmate Atwell to the death of Sierra.”

Pelican Bay State Prison, a maximum-security prison, is located 13 miles from the Oregon – California border. The prison opened in 1989, houses more than 3,400 minimum- and maximum-custody inmates and employs more than 1,600 people.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heman G. Stark Facility Closes to Juvenile Offenders: Cost-cutting move begins transition to adult prison

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation today officially closed the doors of the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility, ending 50 years of treating juvenile offenders and beginning the institution’s transition to exclusively house adult inmates.

Closure of the facility in Chino, which had been the state’s largest for juvenile offenders, is the first of two significant cost-cutting moves to improve the efficiency of the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in the wake of declining population as more youth are served in county facilities. The 400 youth who had been housed at Chino have been gradually consolidated into five other DJJ-operated facilities and two fire camps over the last few months.

“Closing the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility improves our efficiency as we provide specialized treatment to the youth who are committed to the DJJ and whose needs cannot be addressed by county facilities,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice.

Having opened in 1960 and originally known as the Youth Correctional Facility, Heman G. Stark was considered a modern model for rehabilitating youth and operated as many as 25 vocational trade programs that provided offenders with employable skills. At its peak, it housed approximately 2,000 youth, nearly a fifth of the 10,000 youth committed to state custody.

The population decline over the last decade in Chino, in a facility re-named in honor of the then-California Youth Authority’s longest serving director, reflects reductions in the statewide number of juvenile offenders committed to the DJJ. Financial incentives to counties, based on the belief that most juvenile offenders benefit by being housed closer to their communities and families, as well as legislation that changed the mission of the DJJ, has reduced the statewide population to approximately 1,500.

Although the DJJ population represents less than one percent of the 225,000 youth arrested in California, it includes youth convicted of the most violent offenses and who have exceptional treatment needs that cannot be met by local programs. The DJJ is also one of the few juvenile offender programs nation-wide that treats youth to the age of 25 rather than 21.

The DJJ provides treatment programs for mental health, substance abuse and sexual behavior, and also operates an accredited school district that provides specialized education as well as GED and high school diplomas.

In an additional effort to reduce costs and improve the effectiveness of its treatment and education programs, the DJJ will complete a “right-sizing” of its staff in the next few weeks that adapts to the smaller population but also meets reforms in six, court-supervised remedial plans. Those plans, supervised by the Alameda Superior Court in a settlement agreement of a lawsuit, Farrell v Cate, require significant program changes and set staffing levels for professionals, such as counselors, teachers, and physical and mental health professionals, to provide treatment and care.

When completed, the DJJ “rightsizing” will reduce overall staffing by an estimated 425 positions and reduce costs by $30-$40 million.

CDCR is currently occupying the facility as a reception center to serve incoming adult inmates and will be renovating the facility in the near future to support a long term occupancy. The department has been working closely with local leaders during the planning stages of this conversion.

The closure of Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility is consistent with realignments in the Division of Juvenile Justice for most of the last decade as the juvenile offender population committed to the state has declined. The DJJ has closed eight other facilities or fire camps in Stockton, Whittier, Mariposa, Nevada City, Santa Cruz and Paso Robles between 2003 and 2008.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

CDCR General Counsel Issues Statement on Request to Stay the Court Order Compelling Disclosure of the Parole Investigatory Records of Phillip Garrido

On Feb. 5, 2010, the Sacramento County Superior Court ordered the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to disclose the parole investigatory records of Phillip Garrido to several news media agencies who had filed a legal challenge to obtain the records under the California Public Records Act. Today, CDCR filed a petition with the court to stay its February 5 order.

The following is a statement from CDCR General Counsel Ben Rice:

“We believe the court’s order to compel CDCR to disclose parole investigatory records runs afoul of governing statutes. When the Legislature created the California Public Records Act, it recognized that certain records should not be made public. These records include investigatory files compiled by a state agency for correctional or law enforcement purposes. The Legislature also enacted statutes to protect the privacy of peace officers’ personnel information from unwarranted intrusion.”

“This motion was filed because we believe the court erred when it concluded Garrido’s parole file is not an investigatory file.”

Click here to view the CDCR court filing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In Case You Missed It...

Legislative Changes, New Policies Intended to Improve Parole System While Reducing the Overall Inmate Population
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Monday will launch, as required by a new law, public safety reforms to encourage inmates to complete rehabilitation programs, to improve supervision for high-risk parolees and to better partner with communities in managing minor parole violators. » More

Don't let hype kill options to prison Sacramento Bee (2/5/2010)
(EDITORIAL re: SBx3_18:) Most inmates in California state prisons and county jails eventually get out and return to communities. Before a new law took effect on Jan. 25, California had a system of good-time credits that allowed inmates to shave time off their sentences for good behavior and for participating in certain work, education and drug or alcohol programs. The aim is to encourage good behavior and reward self-improvement efforts, as well as reduce overcrowding in prisons and jails. Here's a reality check. No state prisoners have yet been released under the new law, not one. » More

Don't panic over release of prisoners Chico ER (2/3/2010)
(EDITORIAL re: SBx3_18:) By Larry Phipps, Chico Enterprise-Record -- Here they go again with their fearmongering hysteria regarding the early release of inmates from California prisons due to extreme overcrowding. Once again, let me say that only the low-level, nonviolent offenders who are in their last year of confinement and have been well behaved will even be considered for this program. This is not a massive release of murderers nor rapists nor any other violent offender. It will be phased in over a period of two years, allowing for a gradual release, not a mass exodus, as some law enforcement people would have us believe. » More

Don't let parole reforms slip away Sacramento Bee (1/30/2010)
(EDITORIAL re: SBx3_18:)
Sacramento Bee--New Plan is a vital first step in cutting prison costs, crowding. As the state struggles to launch a modest parole reform that would reduce California's dangerously overcrowded prisons, self-styled "victim rights" groups have raised politically potent objections. Legislators must not allow these groups, financed in large part by the economically self-interested prison guards union, to derail a sensible release plan designed to save money and improve public safety. » More

Prison sanity Press Enterprise (1/26/2010)
(EDITORIAL re: SBx3_18:)
The Press-Enterprise--The parole changes that took effect this week are far less a threat to the public than maintaining the deeply flawed status quo. The new policies can save taxpayers money, provide better public safety and curb abuses of the parole system. The changes are part of a plan approved last year by the Legislature, with the goal of cutting the inmate population and curbing corrections costs. The plan exempts low-risk inmates from parole supervision upon release, which will reduce their chances of returning to prison for a minor parole violation. The plan will also let overloaded parole officers focus their attention on the most dangerous parolees. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates the new approach will save $100 million over the next year. » More

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Condemned Inmate Musselwhite Death Under Investigation

SAN QUENTIN — Condemned inmate Joseph Musselwhite, 47, who is on California’s death row from Sacramento County, was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on February 2, 2010 at 7:21 p.m. Inmate Musselwhite was pronounced dead at 7:55 p.m.

The cause of death has not been determined. Inmate Musselwhite was single-celled and his death is being investigated by prison investigators.

Musselwhite was received onto California’s death row on October 10, 1990 for the December 7, 1987 murder of Norma Iris Painter and the November 30, 1987 attempted murder of Shawn May.

Musselwhite was convicted of one count of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of murder in the commission of a robbery, and one count of attempted second-degree murder. He was sentenced to death in Sacramento County on September 25, 1990.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 50 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 17 committed suicide, 13 were executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, five died from other causes, and one is pending cause of death. As of February 3, 2010, there are 698 people on California’s death row.