Transcript: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Q&A with CDCR Undersecretary Martin Hoshino & Director Michael Stainer on CDCR’s proposed new policies on solitary confinement – Feb. 11, 2014

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Q&A with CDCR Undersecretary Martin Hoshino and Director Michael Stainer on CDCR’s proposed new policies on solitary confinement and prison gang or “security threat group” management. The joint informational hearing was held on Feb. 11, 2014:

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
…So, here’s the deal. We’ve heard a lot from the other side, particularly about other programs. And so just briefly, are you acquainted with Washington state and Mississippi? Have you visited there? Are you willing – have you seen practices that you feel that California could adopt that we do not have now?

Martin Hoshino, CDCR’s Undersecretary of Operations:
I think we both might have answer to that. The first thing is yes, we’re familiar with Washington and we actually sent a team of our folks to Washington. And in the methodology at least for this particular set of reforms, there was a fair amount of research that occurred through other states. So this was not done in a vacuum.

Again, there are still things to work on but this department started to move in this direction knowing that it didn’t have a perfect plan for tomorrow began to implement these reforms and a lot of that was predicated on best practices that were identified in those other states and then those other programs.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All right. But, you know, there’s still a miss here somehow, because it seems to me that those programs are working. Yet, it seems to me that we’re shying away from them. But that’s something to be developed.

The other thing I’d like – I have three specific questions about the – don’t you think independent oversight of the process would be beneficial?

Martin Hoshino, CDCR’s Undersecretary of Operations:
Do you mean the entire – I’m not sure specific – I’m wondering if you mean on the actual validation or – ?

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
All that, yeah.

Martin Hoshino, CDCR’s Undersecretary of Operations:
– the entire process?

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Yeah. So, it’s not the hen and the foxes and that, you know, there’s truly an independent assessment, which I think would be to the benefit of CDCR. See, right now that’s not there. It’s all in-house. So, anyway, I’ll let you ruminate on that. [Laughter]

What about the…why can’t you treat STG members the same as the associates? That’s been brought up. By requiring the validation plus behavior. You heard the point that was made.

And why did CDCR decide to add street gangs to the definition of the STG? Doesn’t that widen the net?

So those are the three points that I heard made and if you have responses to them now, that would be great.

Michael Stainer, CDCR’s Director of the Division of Adult Institutions:
I’d like to first start off, again. Michael Stainer. I’m the Director of the Division of Adult Institutions.

I’d like to first start off with your comments with regard to Mississippi and Washington. We actually had sent just this fall an associate director along with several wardens up to go visit, and they actually spent a week in Washington where they toured the different various institutions with the directorate of Washington. And I’m going to tell you we brought back a lot of good ideas, programs. We looked very earnestly at what they had to offer. I believe in a lot of what Ms. Metcalf said and Mr. Haney as well with regard to the types of programs. We are exploring those and seeing how can we, you know, take something that’s already been invented and how can that apply with our system here.

I believe the STG reforms are just the first part of the reforms of our security housing unit systems and the processes that are in place. I think we have a long way to go.

With regard to the independent oversight of our processes, I believe we do have a system in place and that’s the Office of the Inspector General. They do provide the oversight. I just had a conversation with the chief deputy inspector general. Mr. [Roy] Wesley is asking for the schedule of the case-by-case review so they can go and they can observe that process and then provide feedback not just to the public as well as us as how we can apply that process a little bit better.

With regard to the STG members, again, the members themselves have been proven and it’s our belief and the evidence has shown that they carry a different amount of influence with the population. Therefore, we believe just simply the matter of being a member in and of itself we do necessitate that we would treat them a little bit differently than the associates. I have heard the comments, and we’ll take those comment into consideration as well and we’d like to work with you with regard to that.

Finally, sir, with regard to your question about the street gangs or the STG IIs, there’s always been a process in place to validate street gang members and associates. If you look through many, many, many of our files today, you’ll find that members of street gangs are validated, whether they’d be an associate or a member of those street gangs.

But most of our focus has always been upon on the prison gangs or STG Is today just based upon the different levels of influence that they’ve had within our system. But again, this is not a new policy with regard to the validation of the street gangs.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
I appreciate your answers. I mean, I do have some dispute with them. Very happy to hear that you would like to work – you know, there’s this ping pong that gets established. We step forward – I have some legislations I’m going to introduce after this hearing today about restoring the credits, which Ms. Hubbard talked about, and also a cap on the SHU.

But the ping pong is we introduce the legislation, then you go “Okay, we’re going to respond to that. Here, we respond to that; we don’t need the legislation.”

Gentlemen, I tell you it’s time for something bold. We’re little mice nibbling at a big cheese here. I get it. We’re all part of the same universe. But we really need an aggressive strategy here. Hopefully, it will be with you and not against you.

You know as well as I do that this is a question of political will. Out there, the populace’s sentiment is that we do need reform and we do need change and hopefully that will impact the legislators here as heavily as the CDCR does on how they vote and what should go into legislation.

So those are my comments. I want to thank you again for stepping up to the plate.

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