Transcript: Q&A with Sen Hannah-Beth Jackson on the confirmation of CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard

Partial transcript of Q&A with Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) on the confirmation of Jeffrey Beard for Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations. The hearing was held before the state Senate Rules Committee on June 19, 2013:

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara):
…I know for years the attitude about prison has been far removed from the notion of rehabilitation to simply warehousing people and, you know, you get what you paid for. Well, I don’t know I’d say that since we pay a lot regardless. But you know, that was our approach, and so we didn’t do a whole lot in the form of rehabilitation and because of that we have, I think, still the highest recidivism rate in the country, and I think that affects what happens with Realignment. And, you know, we don’t send these people home or back into society particularly well-prepared.

And I was really interested in what you were – on what we talked about in terms of your vision for the future. And I think Californians are tired of spending enormous amounts of money to just simply incarcerate people without any benefit at the end of the day. Most of them will get out, and if they’re not prepared in society, they’re going to re-offend, they’re going to go back to what they know. So I was particularly interested in your vision for dealing with how to rehabilitate and I want to discuss that a little bit more with you here.

You mentioned that you felt that substance abuse was the number one consistent thread for most of these people. So I’d like to know – I know there was a substantial amount of money put in last year. There’s some questions about whether or not we actually used the money. But let’s assume that going forward we’ve got systems in place to allow that to happen. What do you envision? What do you see as your effort? What can we look at if we were to come back and visit the prisons in about a year or so in terms of the efforts made to try to address the substance abuse amongst these prisoners with the goal, of course, of rehabilitation and getting them out of prison and off the streets and into a productive life?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, first of all, Senator, to answer your question, there’s a lot of things we have to look at when we want to try to rehabilitate inmates because different inmates have different issues.

It’s true that substance abuse is probably the biggest. Probably almost 70% of the inmates have some substance abuse issue that they need to deal with.

But education, vocational training is also very important. If they can’t read and write, they don’t have a job skill, they’re not going to get a job when they get out. It’s tough enough with the stigma that they’re going to have.

And we also have to look at things like criminal thinking issues because if they’re thinking like criminals and they keep thinking that way, they’re probably going to act like criminals.

We have to look at anger management issues. We know a lot of our violent offenders come in here and they have acted out violently, and so we have to look at ways and programs that we can try to deal with anger management.

And we have to look at parenting and family issues because many of them have children and families out there that they’re going back to.

So all of these issues have to be part of our programming.

And we’ve made a good start on educational and vocational training. We need to continue to build on that. Re-entry centers that I mentioned to Sen. Steinberg that we started up – the 13 re-entry centers that are starting up, they will address – deal with inmates in their last four years before they’re released and will focus on the anger management, the criminal thinking, the parenting, and the substance abuse issues.

Now, beyond that, I think we need to also put some additional monies into substance abuse and we’re working on that now to see what additional monies might be needed because back before 2009 the department had almost 10,000 substance abuse beds systemwide. That was enough to, at any given time, do 7% of the population. And that I think was inadequate. Today, we have 1,500 beds; that’s enough to do 1% of the population. And when we look at the female offenders, back then we had enough for 25%; today, we only have enough for 6% of the population.

So at the end of the day, I hope next year when we come back here we can see that we’re meeting the goals that I talked with the Senator about on education and vocational training and people were getting to those classes. I hope that we see that those 13 re-entry centers are up and running. And I hope that we’re able to also add some more substance abuse programs into these prisons at the same time we try to reduce the contraband in the prisons and the drugs in the prisons, because we simply have too many inmates that are abusing drugs while they are in prison and if they do that, that’s what they’re going to do when they get back out.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara):
You mentioned the four-year period. I’m wondering people who are in prison for four years or more – generally those are pretty – either they’re repeat offenders or it’s a pretty significant crime. What do we do with them until they get to that four-year number?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, we also are working on a long-term offender programming, and we’re putting together RFPs now to put contracts out. We’ve looked at other states for best practices and for what do they do with these long-term offenders and so we’ve started to put together a program. We’re going to get an RFP out and we’re going to be doing some programming for those long-term offenders because we can’t let them just sit there because number one, if they’re idle they cause me more problems. And number two, we need to do some initial work with them so that when they get closer to release, it’ll make our jobs a little bit easier to get them back out to the community. So that group is another group that we’re going to be focusing on.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara):
…About inmate incentives. A lot of time, these folks want to get out and I know we had good time, work time type things. What kinds of incentives are you going to offer that’s going to get people focused on better behavior and trying to kind of rebuild their lives?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Right now, I think many of the inmates do get milestone credits if they complete their program. There are incentives there for them to do that.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara):
Do you have any suggestion for additional incentives?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
At some point I may. But, you know, there’s been so much change to the system from Realignment. I mean, what I would like to do is let the system settle down. We’re still struggling from the changes of Realignment even within the system, some of the classification changes and we don’t yet know what we’re going to have to do with Valley Fever. So we have a stuff. I think we should let that settle down and also the communities – we need to let them deal with their Realignment concerns and issues out there. But as we move into the future, perhaps I would have some recommendations. But right now, I think we’ve done a lot. Let’s let what we have out there get settled.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara):
Last question or issue is private prisons. I know we still have a number of prisoners who are in private prisons. Are they getting any kind of rehabilitation? I mean, are you able to oversee what goes on there at least in terms of creating the programmatic type of activities that you’re talking about here with these prisons? Are we seeing that there? Are we going to have to spend more money to have that happen? I mean, tell me what we’re doing to try to create that…?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
That’s part of the requirement for those prisons is to provide them with programming and we have people who are CDCR staff who work in those prisons and monitor what’s going on and make sure they’re doing what they should be doing out there.

Now, that being said, sending inmates out of state is not my favorite thing to do. It makes it very difficult to re-enter those inmates if they’re in Arizona or Oklahoma. I mean, we do want to work over time to try to bring that down as much as we can considering the three-judge panel that’s still watching us very closely. And also I think we should be spending the money – California money in California. So I’m going to be looking for alternatives here of things that we can do as well…


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