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COVID-19 Updates from California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitations

By |2020-06-02T12:35:57-07:00March 18th, 2020|

COVID-19 Preparedness

RECENT UPDATES

  • There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within CDCR institutions.
  • Effective March 17, no volunteers or rehabilitative program providers will be allowed to enter state prison until further notice.
    • All rehabilitative programs, group events, and in-person education classes are cancelled.
    • The Office of Correctional Education is working to provide in-cell educational programs so as to not interrupt educational credit-earning.
  • The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) will postpone all parole suitability hearings through March 20.
  • All Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees or inmates to California will cease for 30 days.
  • Effective Wednesday, March 18, all CDCR/CCHCS staff in all locations will be given the same verbal screenings in place at state institutions. They will be asked whether they are showing new or worsening signs of a respiratory illness and if they answer yes will not be permitted to enter the building.
  • CDCR has activated an email box, COVID19@cdcr.ca.gov, to answer questions from the public, employees, and stakeholders related to COVID-19. This email address will be monitored and questions will be directed to the appropriate divisions.
  • CDCR’s inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL) has offered the adult incarcerated population free phone calls from 12:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19, through 11:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26. The youth within the Division of Juvenile Justice already receive free phone calls.
  • CDCR’s electronic messaging provider JPay is now offering two free stamps per week for all registered users at the five pilot sites that currently have the technology; High Desert State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, California Institution for Women, Central California Women’s Facility, and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran. At some of these institutions, only certain yards currently have this technology.

Executives and staff at CDCR and CCHCS are working closely with infectious disease control experts to prepare for a scenario where COVID-19 (new coronavirus) could significantly affect our operations. As a precautionary measure, and to ensure CDCR and CCHCS are ready to immediately respond to any COVID-19 related incident, the Agency has activated the Department Operations Center (DOC) in order to be fully prepared to respond to any departmental impacts resulting from COVID-19. The DOC is a central location where CDCR/CCHCS experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information centrally in order to make decisions and provide guidance quickly. We will continue to ensure inmate safety and security, and the continuation of access to medical, dental, and mental health services for the incarcerated population.

CDCR and CCHCS are dedicated to the safety of everyone who lives in, works in, and visits our state prisons. We have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to address communicable disease outbreaks such as influenza, measles, mumps, norovirus, and varicella, as well as preparedness procedures to address a variety of medical emergencies and natural disasters.

Due to the unique factors of each institution and the population each houses, the department remains agile in our response to any potential case of COVID-19 based on the factors and risk related to that case, with the top priority being the safety and protection of staff, volunteers, and the incarcerated population.

We are bolstering our response readiness by taking several proactive steps to educate those who work in, live in, and visit our facilities regarding ways they can protect themselves and those around them from COVID-19.

BELOW IS AN OVERVIEW OF STEPS WE ARE TAKING REGARDING COVID-19

Rehabilitative programs and volunteers

Effective March 17, any non-CDCR/CCHCS/CALPIA staff will not be permitted to enter state prison until further notice. This includes people who enter state prison as volunteers, or to facilitate rehabilitative programs. Paid union representatives and Inmate Ward Labor (IWL) staff will be permitted.

No rehabilitative programs, group events, or in-person educational classes will take place until further notice. The Office of Correctional Education is working with institution principals, library staff, and teachers to provide in-cell assignments where possible in order for students to continue their studies, legal library access and educational credit-earning opportunities.

Chaplains will conduct individual religious counseling as appropriate while maintaining social distancing, and CDCR is working to provide televised religious services to the population.

Contract staff not affiliated with inmate programming will be permitted on a case-by-case basis at the direction of institution leadership.

CDCR values and appreciates the time and talents of those who enter our state prisons but at this time we must prioritize the well-being of everybody, inside and outside state prison.

Expanded precautions at institutions and office locations

Effective March 17, CDCR and CCHCS will implement mandatory verbal screening for every person entering any work location, in line with screenings in place at prisons since March 14. Those attempting to enter a state prison or office building at any time are required to verbally respond if they currently have new or worsening symptoms of a respiratory illness. If the individual’s response is that they are experiencing symptoms, they will be restricted from entering the institution that day. Individuals will be required to respond each time they attempt to enter a CDCR institution.

All CDCR institutions have been instructed to conduct additional deep-cleaning efforts in high-traffic, high-volume areas, including visiting and health care facilities. Additional hand sanitizer dispensing stations are being procured and will be placed inside institution entrances and visiting areas.

Institutions have been instructed to create staggered dining scheduled where possible to limit the size of the population that is congregated at one time, and to also allow additional cleaning and disinfecting of the dining halls to be done between groups.

Staff have been granted permission to carry up to two ounces of personal-use hand sanitizer. The incarcerated population is being provided extra soap and hospital-grade disinfectant that meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for COVID-19.

CDCR and CCHCS have been actively monitoring and assessing institutions to ensure staff have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to immediately address any potential COVID-19 exposures, and to protect staff and incarcerated people. The workgroup will continue to collaborate and maintain open lines of communication with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to identify any deficiencies and ensure adequate supplies are available at each institution on an ongoing basis.

At this time, all tours and events have been postponed, and no new tours are being scheduled.

Health care services

The health and safety of our population is of critical importance to CDCR and CCHCS. While our agency is working together to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, we will continue to provide urgent health care services to our population. To reduce risks to both patients and staff, inmate movement will be minimized. In addition, some specialty and routine care may be delayed as a result of both internal redirections and external closures. All cancelled appointments will be rescheduled as soon as safely possible. Health care staff will continue to see and treat patients through the 7362 process and those with flu-like symptoms will be tested for COVID-19 as appropriate.

COVID-19 Testing

CDCR/CCHCS are utilizing our current external laboratory provider for COVID-19 testing and are utilizing testing protocols based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control. Our current turn around for test results is 48-72 hours.

Dental care

The California Dental Association recommends that all non-urgent dental care be suspended for the next 14 days. Effective immediately and until further notice, dental treatment shall be limited to Dental Priority Classification (DPC) 1 conditions (urgent care). For more information on what qualifies as urgent care, view HCDOM 3.3.5.4.

Department of State Hospital (DSH) transfers
Effective immediately, DSH and CDCR/CCHCS will not transfer patients between the two mental health treatment agencies for the next 30 days. All appropriate health care services will be provided to the patient by the current housing agency.

Specialty care appointments

In order to reduce risks to patients and staff, all non-urgent offsite specialty appointments will be re-scheduled to a later time. Telemedicine appointments will continue at this time.

Visiting

CDCR’s inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL) has offered the adult incarcerated population free phone calls from 12:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19, through 11:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26. The youth within the Division of Juvenile Justice already receive free phone calls.

CDCR’s electronic messaging provider JPay is now offering two free stamps per week for all registered users at the five pilot sites that currently have the technology; High Desert State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, California Institution for Women, Central California Women’s Facility, and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran. At some of these institutions, only certain yards currently have this technology.

As part of CDCR’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, normal visiting at adult and juvenile facilities is canceled statewide until further notice based on California Department of Public Health guidance for mass gatherings. This includes overnight family visits and Division of Juvenile Justice visiting.

At this time, legal/attorney visits and hospice visits will be held as scheduled. Marriages will be postponed, those affected are encouraged to work with the institution’s Community Resource Manager regarding rescheduling for a later date.

Visitors should monitor CDCR’s website for more information and updates.

More information regarding rescheduling family visits, and food orders already entered, will be forthcoming.

CDCR recognizes the value of visitation in maintaining important connections with support systems. However, at this time the Department must do all it can to protect the health of those who live in, work in, and visit state institutions.

Division of Adult Parole Operations

The Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) is committed to the safety of the community, staff, and those in its care. Given the increased risk associated with the use of mass/public transportation and those under parole supervision deemed a high-risk population (older adults and those with known serious chronic medical conditions), DAPO will make some operational changes to support both staff and the individuals under their care and supervision.

In efforts to minimize potential impact from COVID-19, the following steps will be taken immediately:

  • All lobby traffic will be suspended except for initial parole interviews and emergencies.
  • Routinely scheduled, non-essential office visits shall be avoided at this time.
  • Parolees should contact their parole agent by phone for guidance on whether to come in.
  • Office visits for those age 65 and older and with chronic medical conditions shall be suspended immediately.
  • No Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees to DAPO supervision will take place for at least 30 days.
  • Work-related travel for staff that uses commercial transportation (i.e. air, train, etc.) will be limited to essential travel for operational needs and must be approved by the staff member’s hiring authority.
  • In-person training may be postponed to a later date, modified, or waived as deemed appropriate to assist with complying with guidance to limit large groups and social distancing.

At this time all parolees’ conditions of parole remain in place, with the exception of the items listed above. DAPO administrators and supervisors will assess all measures being implemented and adjust, modify, or waive required specifications as appropriate. Any questions parolees may have related to COVID-19 prevention efforts should be directed to their Parole Agent.

CDCR will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California Department of Public Health guidelines for responding to COVID-19. CDCR will maintain cooperation and communication with local and state health departments. DAPO staff are encouraged to communicate with their chain of command for questions or concerns.

Parole suitability hearings

On the advice of public health official’s orders throughout the state and out of concern for the health of victims, district attorneys, inmates, counsel, and BPH employees, parole suitability hearings scheduled March 18 through March 20 will be postponed.

All affected parole hearing participants and observers are currently being notified. BPH and the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services are working together to establish protocols for external participation in parole hearings while maintaining the health of all, respecting the rights of crime victims and inmates, while adhering to legally required hearing timelines.

Modified Community Correctional Facilities and Community Reentry Programs

CDCR’s in-state contract facilities are conducting verbal screenings of staff and participants who enter the facilities. Those attempting to enter one of these facilities are required to verbally respond if they currently have symptoms of a respiratory illness. Visiting has also been halted at these facilities until further notice.

CDCR is committed to continuing education programs and limiting the impact our COVID-19 response has on positive rehabilitative programming for our Community Reentry Programs. Rehabilitative programs at the reentry facilities will continue with modifications made to class sizes to encourage social distancing, with some potential program closures.

At this time, participants are generally restricted from leaving the facilities outside of mandated legal reasons, urgent medical needs, if they are employed in the community, or for critical reentry services related to those within 30-45 days of release.

Participants age 65 or older are only eligible for passes to go out in the community for emergency situations only.

Population communication

To keep members of our population informed, we have created and distributed fact sheets and posters in both English and Spanish that provide education on COVID-19 and precautions recommended by CDC, which expand upon those advised during cold and flu season. We have also begun streaming CDC educational videos on the CDCR Division of Rehabilitative Programs inmate television network and the CCHCS inmate health care television network.

Additionally, we are providing regular department updates regarding COVID-19 response to the Statewide Inmate Family Council and all institutional Inmate Family Councils who serve the family and friends of the incarcerated population to ensure they are aware of the steps the department is taking to protect their loved ones housed in our institutions.

Transportation/Receiving and Release protocols

For inmates coming into the CDCR system, who are being transported to county jail to attend court hearings, or are transferring from prison to prison, we are completing a comprehensive health screening and assessment by health care professionals when they are both processed into and out of an institution; including temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration screenings. They are also asked a series of questions about their state of health.

All Interstate Compact Agreement transfers of out-of-state parolees inmates to California will cease for 30 days.

Peace officer hiring and academies

All peace officer academies and peace officer hiring efforts have been deemed an essential state function and will continue as scheduled. The health and safety of our staff, cadets, and candidates is our top priority. CDCR is taking all available precautions to ensure a safe and healthy environment, including regular office cleanings, hand sanitizer/gloves when applicable, reduced testing and physical fitness group sizes, and social distancing.

Communication and guidance to staff

Effective Wednesday, March 18, all CDCR/CCHCS staff in all locations will be given the same verbal screenings in place at state institutions. They will be asked whether they are showing new or worsening signs of a respiratory illness and if they answer yes will not be permitted to enter the building.

We have worked continuously to keep staff informed of the evolving situation, including creating internal and external webpages with health-related information from CDC and California Department of Public Health on how they can protect themselves against COVID-19. We have also provided staff with California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) updates on personnel and work-related questions specific to the COVID-19 issue.

CDCR and CCHCS cares for the health and wellness of its workforce and have been working to accommodate those who have been impacted by this evolving situation. We will continue to work diligently with CalHR and labor organizations on how we can best keep our workforce protected and provide for the safety and security of our institutions.

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