Transcript: Sen. Loni Hancock’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 Sen. Loni Hancock’s (D-Oakland) Q&A with Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, and Inspector General Robert A. Barton 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:

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
…I have a number of questions about how we manage the SHUs. Who specifically at CDCR headquarters is responsible for monitoring the conditions of confinement in SHU and AdSeg? The Inspector General comes in under certain conditions but somebody must be monitoring them all the time. Is that your position, Mr. Harrington?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Yes. Well, that was my prior position as the Associate Director over the High Security Mission. So I had all of the security housing units under my purview. Then now as I moved over as Deputy Director, we have another individual in that position that monitors that.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay. And the title is Associate Director of the High Security Mission?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Correct.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Thank you. Maybe you could just clarify for me, Mr. Barton, how does the Office of the Inspector General get involved and when?

Robert A. Barton, Inspector General:
There are three or four different ways.

So one of them is in the complaint. When we receive complaints from inmates or inmate family member or the legislature or the Governor’s office specific to a secured housing inmate, we will follow up on that and determine whether or not the appropriate actions are being taken.

Second way that we are involved is in our use of force monitoring. Every single use of force used in the prisons are to be documented, recorded, and we monitor that. And so typically, when there is an issue that ends in a use of force, we are going to be monitoring how the department behaved before the incident, what led up to the incident, how it was handled, what the appropriate outcomes are, whether there was negligence or misconduct or inappropriate force, et cetera. So that’s another way that we would get involved.

The third is in terms of our overall monitoring of the discipline process within CDCR. So anytime there’s a staff complaint or allegation against staff, we have our attorneys or inspectors to basically sit in with internal affairs to review those misconduct complaint allegations against staff. And so if an investigation has started, we will monitor that investigation.

And I haven’t done a specific study to find out how many staff members in SHUs received complaints as opposed to staff members in other parts of the prison. Something I certainly could look at in the future. We tend to look at them all – all of the staff complaints in the same milieu, if you will so I’ve never broken it down. But that is another way where we become involved.

And then ultimately when we’re vetting wardens for the Governor’s office, we do an institutional review and of the prisons that we’re talking about, Pelican Bay has a recently retired warden, so they’ll be having a new warden. Corcoran recently had Ms. [Connie] Gipson, who went through the vetting process. Tehachapi had Ms. [Kim] Holland, who recently went through the vetting process. And CSP Sac[ramento] has not at least while I’ve been the Inspector General; they’ve had the same warden the whole time.

So while in that vetting process we are scrutinizing the whole prison. But because they have such major portions that are secured housing, we will go in, talk to inmates, talk to staff, see what the problems are, see if the warden or the prospective warden is handling any issues, is aware of those issues.

So that is another part where we interact, if you will, with these SHU prisons. So in all of those areas, we come across issues with SHU and oversee them.

But when you were talking about on a daily basis, who’s making sure things are happening in the SHU the way they’re supposed to, unless there’s something that’s triggered us to take a look at it, you know, I don’t have staff who are standing there side-by-side with the correctional officers.

We get called in or we’re reacting to a complaint or one of our other mandates.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay. Thank you. But at the moment, you’re not breaking out SHU confinement as against general population?

Robert A. Barton, Inspector General:
In terms of staff complaints, no. But I have to think – I’m certainly not the person in charge of our IT section – I have to think that’s something a computer could do.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Yeah, I would too. And I think it’s the kind of information that would be very useful to us.

I have a question for Mr. Harrington. What specific mechanisms do you use in CDCR to monitor the conditions in the SHU? Of particular interest to me is how do you test the gap between policy and actual practice in the prisons?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
So, there are several documents that we utilize. The most important one is probably our COMPSTAT reviews that we have for each of the institutions, which breaks down several areas as far as their population, grievances or appeals that they received from inmates, their population, disciplinaries. It goes through the whole gamut of operations at the institution.

And so as the Associate Director, you identify any issues or concerns on that COMPSTAT report and then directly with the wardens during site reviews, we’re required to go out to each of the sites. The high security mission has 9 prisons. We go out at least once a quarter, meet with the wardens, meet with their staff, and tour each of the units, and that includes the security housing units, so ensuring that the mechanisms are in place. And if you see any spikes in issues that, at our level, we address them with the warden and their staff as they come up.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay, well, specifically, for example, how would you know if an inmate was wrongly validated as a gang member and placed in SHU for that reason?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
So if an inmate believes that they are wrongly validated, they have a process that they go through and that process is through the 602 grievance process for the inmate. And as those work their way through the system, that’s when I would become aware of it, if it made it up to our level. Most of those are either granted or denied at lower levels before they get to the Director’s level or the third level of review. And that – I know we don’t want to get into the new step-down or security threat group concerns now, but that’s some of the items that we’re looking at more in the pilot program that we’re addressing to put in more due process at this time.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
I’m glad that you’re doing that. Could you just describe the process right now? The prisoner has been accused, validated as a gang member. And to whom does the prisoner approach? What kind of hearing is there? What level of officer who is hearing the appeal?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Just to go real briefly through the process. So the gang investigator, once they complete the investigation and if they believe there’s enough information to validate the inmate, they would submit a package. Once they put that package together, they will actually meet with the inmate and allow the inmate a chance to rebut the information.

You know, I’ll be candid. Most of the time, that information still goes forward and it’ll be submitted to the Office of Correctional Safety.

The Office of Correctional Safety will review all the information and see if it meets our criteria with our policy. And at that point, they will – yesterday’s policy, they would actually say that person is validated or not validated. With today’s policy, they will make a recommendation now to either accept or reject that validation and then send it back to the institution.

The biggest change to this policy is now the inmate will now appear before a committee who will actually review that. So – and this was never been the case before, where he’ll actually sit in front of a classification committee chaired by a correctional captain, who then review every aspect of that validation and at that point affirm or reject that validation. And at that point, the inmate is either validated or not validated.

Now, once that’s taken place, the inmate still has all of his appeals rights where they can appeal – continue through that process.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
But appeal to whom?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
To the institution. You know, a lot of the inmates will…

[interruption by audience members]

They will appeal to the institution…

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Does that mean the warden? Who does it mean?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
It’s an actual process, ma’am, and what it is is that they would fill out a document to submit it. They would receive a log number. It will be reviewed by the institution at two levels. First and second level. And then it would go – if it’s denied through those two levels, it can be submitted for the Director’s level review or the third level review.

And if it’s at that point still denied, then the inmate…has exhausted his administrative remedies and he may file a writ…to the courts.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Where in this process does the prisoner have an advisor or an advocate or counsel?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Well, the counsel would be, of course, if he chooses to retain counsel through the writ process. However, at the institutional level, he can receive a staff assistant during the interviews provided that he – if there’s any mental health issues or if the person has any communications barriers. But for the most part, there’s no counsel or advocates or representatives to give advice through the institutional appeals process.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Let me just say that seems to me to be a huge problem. [Audience applause]

How would you make judgments about the quality of the food and whether food is being used in any way as a punishment?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I think after this meeting with four of the Pelican Bay representatives, there’s some things that we are supposed to be doing and we’re verifying that we are doing those things. Number one is having staff as well as inmate food samplers where they are filing out the forms for every meals, many of them being reviewed by the warden. Want to make sure that that’s happening and is alive and well. And that process, I’ve found, in the past being a former warden and supervisor within the correctional facilities, it’s really a good way to actually keep abreast of what the population as well as the staff are thinking about the food service.

Presently, our ombudspersons that tour the institutions, every time they’re at those institutions, they are sampling the meals. They’re doing a review of the food – its preparation, its presentation, the temperature…

When the inmate population’s not satisfied with the meals, they’re pretty adamant – they will file the appeals. So that again is something that, as a warden or as a prison administrator, kind of tells you what the pulse of your institution.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Right. So do you keep track of those so there could be a brief report at the end of the year so that we could tell which institutions might be having problems with food in terms of inmate complaints and which ones might not?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
The appeals are kept track of very closely and logged and the reasons for the appeals. As far as the meal reports themselves that I spoke of earlier, those are maintained by the prison locally.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay. To me, this is an example of the kinds of data that we should be getting on COMPSTAT. It should be identifiable and it should be available to policymakers so that they could be handled without prisoners having to take extreme steps to advocate on their own behalf.

I’m also interested in how inmates for SHU and for AdSeg really are evaluated for either cognitive issues or mental health issues.

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
So any inmate when they’re placed first, before they go to SHU, they are placed in administrative segregation. And those inmates are evaluated by our mental health clinicians prior to going into the security housing units or AdSeg in the security housing units.

And then if they’re placed in a mental health program, then they’re constantly monitored.

So the inmates that are in Pelican Bay SHU – the Security Housing Unit – they – we’re not allowed to place mental health inmates into those units up there.

The inmates that are evaluated are either at the CCCMS or the EOP level of care, they’re either housed at CSP Corcoran, Tehachapi or CSP Sac.

And so our mental health clinicians interact with them daily if they need to and on an ongoing basis.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Can you tell us what CCCMS and EOP mean in terms of popularly understood mental health categories?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
So CCCMS is probably a lower level of care for an inmate, and depending on – or mental health care – depending on what their concerns are. Of course, I’m not a mental health clinician. But it could be as small as they have issues sleeping, and so they are prescribed medication. So they would go to the CCCMS level of care.

Or an inmate that is severely – has some severe mental health issues could be at the EOP, which is the enhanced outpatient level. So those inmates are seen more often. They have a need for higher level of care. Those are the inmates that Mr. Barton spoke about that if they get a security housing term, they’re at the PSU – the psychiatric services unit. So they’re in interactive processes. They have group therapy. They’re taken care of by mental health clinicians a lot closer.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
But they do get placed in SHU?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Yes, a lot of those inmates are determinate SHU terms. So they committed some type of crime in prison, either stabbing assaults or batteries. So that’s when they get those security housing unit terms.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
So the housing is different? When I was at Pelican Bay, I thought the psychiatric unit that I saw was more like a holding place where you would go for a therapy or discussion. It wasn’t a different cell.

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Yeah, you probably went to the treatment area is where you were at. The cells are actually – they’re a different design than what you probably saw in the SHU. They’re more of a design like you would see at Corcoran or Tehachapi. The cells have windows that go out to the outside. So that’s kind of the difference.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Are they in cell block C or D?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
At Pelican Bay? No. They’re on a yard. Yeah, C and D is the security housing.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
But to your knowledge, no one with a mental health issue would be placed in SHU?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
[Pause] With a mental health issue not placed in SHU?

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Right.

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Well, what they are – the EOP inmates go to the PSU. Inmates that are CCCMS are in security housing units but not at Pelican Bay.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
They cannot be placed in Pelican Bay. Could you just tell me what CCCMS means?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
It’s clinical…

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
It’s correctional clinical case management system.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay, thank you. And those people can go to SHU but it would be at Corcoran or some place else?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Correct.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Nobody in Pelican Bay would go into the SHU with a mental health issue?

Kelly Harrington, Deputy Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
Correct.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Okay. Thank you.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
…Could you give us the actual financial differences between having someone in the SHU and someone in the general population? I’ve heard $20,000 more for a person in SHU. I’ve heard twice as much. I’ve heard all kinds of figures out there but you probably have it down cold.

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
No, I do not have it down cold. However, I think between $15,000 to $20,000 does seem accurate.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
…So it would be about $70,000 per prisoner instead of $49,000?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
What I’d like to do is actually provide you with the accurate information.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
…Because we have been very successful sharing savings in probation and we’re looking at doing that in parole now so it’s interesting to know what the savings would be were we to cut back which might be re-invested in other ways within and without CDCR.

My other question is really a public safety in the community question. I realize that a number of people in SHU are LWOPP – life without possibility of parole. They will never get out. They may get back to the general population but they will be in prison. Others are lifers – 25 to life. Unless a parole board agrees, they may spend a very long time in prison. But a number of people are there on a determinate sentence, which means they will be released. Now, you said about 23 a month, Mr. Barton, are released from SHU to parole. I’ve seen other research data that say someplace between 50 and 100.

Robert A. Barton, Inspector General:
I think that was before Realignment.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Before Realignment were directly released. My concern is what happens to people who are released from these conditions of deprivation of other human contact or activities or planning for themselves. And I believe you said really the only program open to them is independent study on tapes and that sort of things, and to me that seems like something that every community in California should be concerned about because I don’t think they’re being prepared for rehabilitation and re-entry.

Now, I know you said there’s a 45-day program on life skills but, you know, if people have been there for 5 years or more and are released, aren’t there any other programs that you can imagine putting in particularly for that population, which is about 1,800 people?

Michael Stainer, Director of CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:
I think we do recognize that same concern.

First, I’d like to say self-directed or voluntary education is not the only program that we have right now within the SHU population.

The wardens and the administrators at the institutions actually have been quite proactive in putting together some programs.

Each of the SHUs have religion and participants in that – not just at the cell-front although it is the main mode of transmission at Pelican Bay. However, you go to Tehachapi, they actually bring the inmates out in the dining hall and while they are in the therapeutic modules or holding cages, they still get to participate as a group in religious activities.

They have self-help groups at these institutions as well. AA and NA celebrate recovery at Tehachapi. Parenting, anger management, and Narcotics Anonymous at Corcoran. New Beginnings at Pelican Bay as well as AA and NA.

We do recognize that one thing we are lacking is probably some pre-release or transitional programming for the inmates that are going to be released. Presently, we do not have any of those programs. However, we are in discussions – very preliminary discussions with the Department of Rehabilitative Programs within CDCR and exploring what we can put in place, whether it’d be some pre-release processes or education or actual transitional to better prepare the individual for reintegration into the communities.

Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland):
Thank you. I think that’s very important and maybe you could again give us for the budget hearing…a list of what is currently available in the SHU of each institution. There’s only about 5 of them.

Thank you.

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