Transcript: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Q&A with CDCR Directors Michael Stainer & Kelly Harrington at the joint legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California – Oct. 9, 2013

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s (D-San Francisco) Q&A with Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, and Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, at the joint legislative hearing on “Segregation Policies in California Prisons: Current Conditions and Implications on Prison Management and Human Rights” on Oct. 9, 2013:

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
…Based upon our understanding of this hearing today, I did not prepare a statement. However, I’m more than willing to take any type of questions that the panel may have…

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Good afternoon. Kelly Harrington. Currently the Acting Deputy Director for the Department of Corrections. I oversee the field operations and prior to this assignment, I was the Associate Director for the High Security Missions for the last three years, which oversees all the security housing units.

So as Director Stainer said, we’re here to answer any questions for the panel. Thank you.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Okay. Were there any disciplinary actions taken against the inmates who participated in the hunger strike this summer?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
There were.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
And what kind of disciplinary actions were there? Privileges revoked or…?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Well, they’re still going through the hearing process in quite a few of them. However, each of the inmates that did participate in the work stoppage or hunger strike or refusing cell mates at the various prisons were – they continued on the demonstration for more than 3 days on the hunger strike, they did receive a rules violations report.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
And are they informed of what the rule violations would be?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Absolutely.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
And they don’t change? You don’t move the goal posts during the game and – ?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I’m not sure I understand –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Well, let’s say you told me what a rule violation is and somewhere along the line there was another rule violation – are they uniformed? Are they constant? Or do they change – what would violate a rule – and is the inmate informed that that rule has changed and now something that was allowed is not allowed?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Yes, I think we understand your question.

Anytime we make any type of changes to the Title 15 or any of our rules, those rules are posted. The inmate should be informed. We have specific processes in each of the institutions on how they inform inmate population of any specific rule changes.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
…What’s the longest term an inmate has served in the SHU?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I don’t have that figure right off the top of my head. However, I want to say we have somebody in there that’s been in there probably close to 30 years.

[Audience: “Forty”]

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Yeah. And more. [Gavels]

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
So I’ll defer to the crowd.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
So you don’t know what the longest term. Approximate 30.

So the rationale for housing inmates in the SHU is safety. Recently, CDCR received and reviewed, I mean, released from the SHU inmates who have been considered gang associates. Has there been any increase in the level of violence due to the release of former SHU inmates into the general population?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I think at this point, you know, we are monitoring that. We’re trying to collect that data. We’ve recently just begun collecting that data. So I cannot say that there has or has not at this point with any type of assurance that it’s correct.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Is there an update that you might have about the SHU inmates who have been hospitalized because of the hunger strike? Are they back in SHU or are they fine in terms of their physical ailments?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
At this point, we do not have any inmates that participated in this mass disturbance that are still hospitalized.

[Audiences jeers]

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
I think there’s some dispute, I think it’s safe to say.

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Excuse my use of those words. That’s, you know –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Yeah.

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
However, I was at Pelican Bay on Monday, and I actually talked to quite a few of the individuals that did participate and I was pleased that they were doing as well as they were.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
…I’ve got two questions. When you mentioned group therapy, what I saw was group therapy but each inmate is in a different – I don’t want to use the word ‘cage’ but – [Audience interruption] that’s group therapy pretty much? There aren’t any variations on that where – ?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Correct. Correct. They’re treatment modules. [Audience laughter]

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Okay. I just – I’ve got to say this. I mean, I know you’re doing your best but it’s like – there’s so many – there’s just so many comparisons to a zoo. Feeding terms. Treatment modules. I don’t know. We’ve got to do something about that.

And my other question is…what is the suicide rate in the SHU? Do we have any numbers on that?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
We don’t have those numbers with us. We have had suicides in the SHU. I don’t remember the last one, to be honest with you.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
…Alternatives to the SHU. Has there been any thought of not having the SHU and having an alternative to some of the problems that are perceived in qualifying for the situation like the SHU?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I think probably the closest thing in that we are looking at right now would be our enhanced programming facilities as listed in the blueprint, and these are facilities where we believe there’s a number of inmates that get involved in activities because they don’t have a choice and we want to provide areas for them. And they don’t want to go to sensitive needs yards. However, we believe there’s an in-between ground there. If we can get inmates who want to program, who want to participate and the opportunities that we’re able to provide – provide them an environment where they’re able to do that, I think that’s an area that we can possibly reduce the violence within our facilities or just confine them to the non-programming type facilities.

However, we’re always open to suggestions to things we can look at. We’re not against that at all.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco):
Thank you very much. You know, what we often hear in these hearings are “We’re looking into it”, “We’re reviewing it”, “We’re considering it”, “We’re concerned about due process”, and I compliment those sentiments. But until there’s action, we’re going to continue to scrutinize, hold your feet to the fire just as we do everyone that’s incumbent in the positions and responsibilities that we hold. Thank you very much.

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