Starting on Tuesday, the prisons stopped classes, rehabilitation programs, and group events, such as anger management, and barred anyone who helps provide these programs from entering prison ground. The move affects all 33 prisons in California.
The Office of Correctional Education is “working to provide in-cell educational programs” where inmates can earn credits while the ban is in place, according to a news release by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
CDCR has also ceased transferring inmates into California from outside the state for 30 days, and postponed all parole hearings through March 20.
The announcement comes days after the prison department said it had suspended conjugal and family visits in response to concerns over COVID-19.
Last week, CDCR suspended all regular visits, but said it would allow multi-day intimate visiting to continue. On Sunday, however officials announced the suspension of conjugal visits — known in the system as family visits — but said that visits in progress would be allowed to continue.
“CDCR recognizes the value of visitation in maintaining important connections with family,” spokesperson Dana Simas wrote in a news release. “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. This measure is taken as part of CDCR’s comprehensive enhanced precautions related to COVID-19.”
Family visits make up a small percentage of all prison visitation. Qualifying inmates are allowed to stay in trailers for multiple days, with a romantic partner and/or other family members. They are monitored, but otherwise allowed to live in the trailer for the duration of the visit and spend time outdoors in a small yard.
The restriction was followed by an announcement that observers — including victims’ families — would be barred from attending parole hearings across the state. Victims and next-of-kin who wish to watch the visits will be allowed to use a video conferencing system, which CDCR already had in place to accommodate family members who couldn’t attend parole hearings in person.
“Attorneys representing inmates at parole consideration hearings and interpreters will continue to appear personally for parole consideration hearings,” Simas said in a news release.
Simas said in a news release Tuesday that staff are being verbally screened upon entry, and anyone who says they have symptoms of a respiratory illness is denied entry.
There have been no COVID-19 cases reported anywhere in the prison system, but some have voiced concerns that virus cases could be particularly hard to detect among inmates.
Adnan Khan, the executive director of a justice reform advocacy group called Re:Store Justice who served a lengthy prison term, tweeted Monday that people with serious illnesses are effectively punished, and less likely to self-report.
“When you get sick/virus in prison, you’ll get sent to solitary confinement. During the worst sickness I’ve ever had in my life, I refused to notify the staff for fears of getting sent to solitary,” Khan tweeted. “Three days I lay on my bunk, shivering relentlessly, hot/cold flashes, severe pain.”
When you get sick/virus in prison, you’ll get sent to solitary confinement.
During the worst sickness I’ve ever had in my life, I refused to notify the staff for fears of getting sent to solitary.
3 days I lay on my bunk, shivering relentlessly, hot/cold flashes, severe pain.
Re:store Justice works in partnership with incarcerated people, survivors of crime, district attorneys & the community to reform the criminal justice system.