Transcript: Special Project Deputy Administrator George Giurbino’s testimony on CDCR’s proposed new policies on solitary confinement – Feb. 11, 2014

Partial transcript of the testimony of George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions, 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:

Prepared opening statement if that’s okay. I want to provide brief introductions and say good morning to the co-chairs, the members of the joint legislative public safety committee today.

My name is George Giurbino. I’m a retired annuitant with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I’ve been assigned to the Special Project Team that’s governing the Security Threat Group management policy for about 24 months now within the Division of Adult Institutions.

And I’ve been employed with the department for about 33 years. Where I’ve worked – I was in a variety of assignments from rank-and-file custody operations to supervisory to management as well as departmental administration. I’ve served as a warden at two state correctional facilities – Centinela and Calipatria state prisons. I’ve also been assigned within the department’s headquarters as an associate director [of] high security, of transitional housing, deputy director, and director of division of adult institutions, which is the final position held until my retirement in December of 2011.

While employed by the department, I continued with my personal education in the field of law enforcement and criminology at the University – Cal State University at Fullerton where I earned a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to my work as a retired annuitant during the past two years, I’ve also been enlisted by the National Institute of Corrections as a national instructor and facilitator regarding prison operations, security audits, security threat group management, emergency operations, and security housing operations.

When I was asked if I would be interested in being involved in this project, I provided one conditional request to the Department of Corrections and that was to be allowed to work with retired Director Suzan Hubbard, who is my partner here today who brings forth with her much department history, practical knowledge, a forward-thinking approach, and sound counsel to our team’s daily efforts.

We’ve been directly involved in assessing and developing the revised security threat group policy for the Department of Corrections, which includes the writing of it and working with external stakeholders in taking a look at it and taking a look at their feedbacks as well.

…And we think as part of the process it’s good to understand what the pre-existing policy was for security threat group management or prison gang management within the Department of Corrections.

And for several decades, the Department of Corrections has had a policy where we had a validation process for individuals based upon activities that they may have been involved in within the prison system could be validated as prison gang members.

Those prison gangs went through a process in order to be identified as prison gangs, which required certification by the agency secretary. Up until most recently, there were seven prison gangs that were certified in the state of California.

And as part of the validation process, individuals had to be actual members or associates of these particular prison gangs and they had to be validated. They were validated based upon several different types of source items in which an individual can become validated. It could be their own self-admission. It could have been a tattoo that they may have had. It may have been part of their commitment offense. Could have been information that was specifically located in their probation officer’s report. Could have been gang symbolism that they had. But there was a variety of sources.

An individual in order to have been validated had to have at least three of these source items. And in addition to having three of these source items affirmed that that individual also had to have a direct link with a validated prison gang associate.

And upon completion of that information being attained, one of our investigative services unit agent would provide that individual with a face-to-face discussion in which they would share the information that was going to be used to validate that individual.

That information subsequently would be forwarded off to the Office of Correctional Safety within the Department of Corrections headquarters in which they would do an assessment of that information and based upon their assessment they would affirm that individual or not affirm that individual as a prison gang member or associate.

Based upon those individuals’ validations, they would be placed into segregation within the department, and then they would be transferred to an institution by the institution’s classification committee based upon their validation. And they would remain within a security housing unit for an indeterminate period of time.

Subsequent to various forms of litigations that have occurred over the years, around 2000, 2011, the department revised those policies and incorporated a six-year review period, which then required the department for each six years at minimum that they do an analysis and review of individuals that were validated as prison gang affiliates that were housed within the SHU. And if those individuals were not involved and didn’t demonstrate any type of activity, then those individuals would be considered for release out to a general population facility.

And again, these are pre-existing policies.

Such items that would include an individual being retained beyond that six-year time frame would be one element of activity. And therefore, if an individual was in a security housing unit and they were programming and they’d been there for six years and they had an inactive review period, and there was a search done on a cell 200 miles away from that security housing unit and that individual’s name was found on a list of other individuals that said “good guys” and “bad guys”, that that information – because they were on that list – would be and could be used to retain that individual within a segregated housing unit for six additional years.

And what we’ve tried to do and in recognition of those policies that were pre-existing, we’ve kind of done an extended effort and even with the assistance of the legislature in 2007 with special funding that was provided – there was a 2007 expert panel report that actually took into account a lot of other systems throughout the country and provided significant recommendations for change.

And even upon receipt of this information and the information itself and the changes and the recommendations that was in the report was good insights and it was somewhat progressive and moving in a direction that was consistent with a lot of national best practices. In our taking a look at it relative to how we were developing the policy, there were several modifications to it that we may have felt may not have been progressive quite enough in our evaluation of it and the development of the policy.

Not only did we take a look at that 2007 report, in addition to that, we worked closely with a lot of individuals and read a lot of recommendations. We took a look at several reports written by Dr. James Austin and his efforts at Mississippi. We worked with Mr. [Christopher] Epps’s staff in Mississippi, Mr. Ken North, who’s in charge of their security threat groups in the state of Mississippi. We also spoke with John Aldi out of the state of Connecticut, got copies of their policies.

We received copies of policies in working with the federal bureau of prisons from most of the states throughout the country to take a look at their policies.

As probably would be understood, not every state in the country has nearly the security threat group or prison gang issues that the state of California had. But they all – by and large, I would say that about 75% of them have local policies that they use to manage segments of their population.

Upon receiving that information and speaking with several of these individuals, we ended up working with a select warden’s advisory group within the Department of Corrections as well and we began the process of drafting the policy for the Department of Corrections – a revised policy, if you will.

And in doing that, took several efforts. There were some confusion. Even as I read on the Internet, people didn’t know which volume of it that they should take into consideration. And in part because this has been a very dynamic process that we’ve been going through, information that we received not only from internal stakeholders within the California Department of Corrections but from outside the Department of Corrections as well – individuals that are associated with Prison Focus, the PLO, the Inspector General’s office, the Attorney General’s office, family members who have corresponded with us and sent information – we’ve taken that information into account. And we’ve kind of pooled it and used that in developing our security threat group management policy that ultimately has been recently put forward to the Office of Administrative Law for promulgation.

Prior to that, we created what was referred to as an instructional memorandum. This instructional memorandum and the reason why it was developed was we developed the policy – it was a very complex policy as we developed it and it changed and impacts several different areas of the California Code of Regulations. And because of all these significant changes that were taking place, we felt that the Department of Corrections and the inmates and the staff would be very challenged in implementing this.

And in addition, we wanted to move forward, and the agency secretary at that point and time wanted to move forward in a rapid process and being able to start taking effect.

The Office of Administrative Law process can often be somewhat a little bit cumbersome or time-consuming in moving through that process. And so we created an instructional memorandum and used the penal code statute that authorized us to develop a pilot program.

And for that pilot program, we used this instructional memorandum in order to relate the information on how that process would take place. And the pilot program began on Oct. 18, 2012 and it would conclude on Oct. 18, 2014.

The department’s ongoing efforts at this point and time based upon other activities and litigations taking place is wanting to and having a desire to move forward with those regulations in a time-expedient fashion if at all possible.

At the same time – and what’s become challenging for our efforts in promulgating these policies – is they’re prospective in nature, as you’ve taken a look at them, where they were developed for individuals that may become newly-validated.

What’s become part of the challenge is we have 3,200 individuals within the security housing units and administrative segregation units throughout the state of California that were previously validated. And it was our goal and our intent to be able to take these new policies that would have been revised and pilot as they may but overlay with those 3,200 inmates that are within our security housing units, and not only overlay them with the inmates that have been previously validated, but also overlay those with those who are tentatively in the process of being validated as well.

So we developed a process similar to what was used in other states like Colorado and Mississippi to conduct an evaluation and review of those in our security housing units. However, in those states, it was primarily a summary review of documents. We felt it was very important and necessary to have interactions with the inmates as well during this process.

And so, we began a process of actually scheduling case-by-case reviews with that segment of the population so that we can overlay the new policy and conduct a review and make an assessment and determination if these individuals who were previously validated warranted further retention within the SHU or if they could be released out to the general population.

To date, as part of these reviews that we’ve been doing, and we’ve completed 632 reviews of individuals throughout the Department of Corrections to date. Included within that 632 number are individuals that are within security housing units as well as those that are confined within administrative segregation units.

The difference between these two types of facilities is security housing units are determined and they’re used for long-term segregation whereas administrative segregation units, which exist in nearly every prison in the department in the state, are designed for temporary segregation based upon the processing of an individual who may or may not be ultimately transferred to a security housing unit.

And our goal in this process and in conducting these reviews was to review not only those that are currently within the security housing unit but also those that were in the process that are in administrative segregation units.

As we developed a protocol for making decision on prioritization of these individuals to be reviewed, one of the key element of change within our policy had to do with those individuals and the basis for their placement within the security housing unit.

We separated out the validation process from the segregation process. And in addition to that, the policy -probably one of the most significant changes made was that individuals previously validated as associates they were placed into a security housing unit based upon their alone. The new policy does not have that provision in it. As a matter fact, an individual that is validated as an associate, their housing will be in the general population based upon their validation. Those individuals that are validated as associates will have to commit additional significant behavior in order to be considered for placement within a security housing unit.

And because of that significant change in our policy, and there are several other significant changes, but because of that one as we developed our prioritization on how these reviews will take place, we elevated the associates – the individuals that were previously validated as associates – to review those individuals first primarily because they have a significant liberty interest involved. Recognizing that all of the inmates within SHU have liberty interest involved, but these particular individuals based upon their validation as an associate have an interest in that they didn’t belong in SHU unless they had committed some type of significant behavior.

So we started off our process of reviewing associates.

However, while we initiated this and we began conducting reviews of associates, the secretary, Dr. Beard, asked and had concerns as well that we’re reviewing associates – and I understand we’re prioritizing that based upon their liberty interest as well as the length of time in which they have been validated – he asked if we would also consider, if we could build into it, a review of our members that have been validated.

So, more recently, since October, November of this past year, we began a review and incorporated a review of those inmates that have been validated as security threat group members as part of this process as well.

Again, as I stated, there has been about 632 individuals that have been reviewed and received a case-by-case review to date.

Although we can go further into it as you may request, but as we conducted these reviews another significant component that the new policy has in it is a step-down program that has four steps associated with it with a fifth step that releases an individual out to the general population.

As we conducted these individual reviews, what we did as part of that is we set up a method in which if an individual had committed serious –

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano:
Excuse me, sir? I don’t mean to interrupt but we do have a member. And can I say amazing? Can we take a breath? Pretty good man. [Laughter] You do get the gold, really. That’s quite a presentation. Ms. [Melissa] Melendez has to leave but she does have a question, and we’re going to allow that because the more information we share, the stronger the legislation will be.

George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator of the Special Project Team at CDCR’s Division of Adult Institutions:

We think that it’s important and critical to understand too as we overlay this policy to understand again about the associates that are being reviewed in that again we started with 3,200 of these individuals. And as we review these associates again based on our new policy associates won’t be placed in segregation unless they’ve committed some type of new serious behavior with a gang nexus. It’s good to know that of that 3,200 inmates, 80% of that population are validated associates. 80% of that population. So, as we conduct reviews, that’s a significant portion of those individuals that are within a security housing unit that would be eligible for release out to the general population. As we’ve initiated and conducted these case-by-case reviews and made determinations of them, to this point in time in reviewing both the associates as well as the members at this point, about 60% to 65% of those individuals that either Ms. Hubbard or I’ve reviewed, we’ve made determinations in releasing back out to the general population.


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