Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Ricardo Lara on the confirmation of CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard

Partial transcript of Q&A with Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) 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. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
…You talked about one of the goals was to reduce contraband and I want to know specifically what are some proven approaches to reduce contrabands in our prisons?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, when I’m talking about contraband, we’re looking primarily at cell phone and drugs. Those are the things that drive a lot of the violence within the prison system and end up with a lot of lockdowns that then prevent us from doing programs and the like and I think they drive other things as well. Other states, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, other places in California have been successful in using drug dogs and cell phone dogs. And so at the end of the day, trying to expand those areas is one thing we can do. Drug detection machines have also been used successfully in other states and actually a pilot was done here in California back in the late 1990s and that was successful as well. And then just randomly drug testing inmates so that we can find those inmates who we really need to get into substance abuse treatment. Those are some of the techniques that could help us get some control over the contraband in the system.

And then from the cell phone side, in addition to cell phone dogs, we are installing managed access systems in our institutions which will not allow unapproved cell phones to make calls outside the institution. And so by that way we can limit the ability of those phones to be used by the inmates.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
So in your opinion, what would be the first plan of attack…what do you think makes sense to begin first?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, one of the things that I think is real important is to do some expanded random drug testing so we know who is using the drugs, who needs to get into treatment, and also there would be a consequence to that. And people tend – back in the late 1990s, when it was done more frequently here in California they found that the usage rate went down as they did more random testing, and just that alone helped a lot. And then the other thing is anything that we can do to interdict drugs or cell phones – whatever it is – searching staff, searching visitors more with the drug detection – those kind of things that more or less interdict…

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
…How do you think technology can help?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, technology can play a role with, like I said, the drug detection machines. They’ve been successfully used around the country and, of course, TSA uses them in the airports. They’re of course looking for explosives; we’re looking for drugs but it’s the same machine.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
Are those being used now?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Right now – there were some machines that were used a number of years ago. More recently, those machines have not been used.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
…I want to talk about the suicide prevention. I know in California we have some of the highest rates of suicide amongst our inmates. I want to get your thoughts on how do we address this critical issue?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, first of all, I think the Department of Corrections has been working very hard to reduce the suicide rate and one thing that people should realize is that while I think we can get the rate down – and we’ve done some things which I’ll get into in a minute here to help bring that rate down – we have to realize that the population within the prison system has changed and is probably different from the population in any other state, because most of the less serious offenders have been removed and you now have your violent offenders, primarily you know the people who are in the prison system, and it’s that group of people who are more likely to commit suicide. So we have a higher concentration than most other states would have. So sometimes it’s a little unfair to compare between states when the demographics are different.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
Fair enough.

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
But some of the things we’ve done is one of the areas where we [have] a disproportionately high amount of suicides is in the segregation units. That’s problematic everywhere, not just here in California. And so one of the things we have done is we’ve increased the amount of times that we check on individuals in those segregation unit. And we’re also installing what we call a “guard tour” system so that we have a system in place that can show that we are making our regular tours around and actually checking on the inmates. And I think that should help because just in the past six months, we’ve had 12 suicides, which is less than the average that we’ve had been running in past years, but what’s more startling about those 12 is that eight of them were in segregation units. So we need to put more of an effort there and that’s what we’re doing and I’m very hopeful that as we move forward that we will see the numbers come down totally and in the segregation units as well.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
…I know your primary residence is in Pennsylvania. Do you see that as an issue, flying back and forth?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, actually, I have a residence here in California and I don’t see it as a problem. I do go back – I have children back there and grandchildren. I don’t get back as often as I would like because my job has a few requirements. But I have a residence and I’m spending the majority of my time here and this is my state.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
…When we talk about Realignment, one of the biggest complaints that I hear from my locals is the lack of information and communication when inmates are either being released or being transferred. What is your opinion on this issue and how do you think we can improve on letting our local folks know when certain folks are being released back into our communities?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, I think we’ve been working very hard on that and I know we’ve been improving the data flow between the counties and the state, and I believe those issues are largely being resolved. I know I’ve also asked the Director of Parole to go out and to interface with the probation people out there to make sure we’re working with them and getting the information we have out there. So what I would say to you is if you go back and if you’re locals are saying they’re having some problem, have them contact me and we will look into it, and if there’s any continuing issues out there, we’ll deal with them.

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One Comment on “Transcript: Q&A with Sen. Ricardo Lara on the confirmation of CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard

  1. Pingback: California's top prison official defends new 30-minute 'welfare checks' instituted one month before start of hunger strike | What The Folly?!

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