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New Directions - A blueprint for reforming California’s prison system to protect the public, reduce costs and rehabilitate inmates, CCPOA, 2010

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New Directions
A blueprint for reforming California’s prison
system to protect the public, reduce costs
and rehabilitate inmates
California Correctional Peace Officers Association
January 2010

CALIFORNIA’S PRISON SYSTEM is failing at every level. The cost
to taxpayers and public safety for this failure is staggering.
More than 170,000 inmates are now being warehoused in facilities
designed to accommodate 80,000 inmates. Coupled with severe
staff shortages, this overcrowding is inordinately jeopardizing
the safety of inmates and correctional officers, while straining
prison resources and infrastructure to the breaking point. Today, an average of nine
correctional officers are assaulted every day inside California prisons, while tens of
thousands of inmates are being denied the help and incentives needed to help make
them productive citizens.
Inmate rehabilitation programs are failing, turning prison gates into revolving doors,
giving California one of the nation’s highest recidivism rates. Thousands of inmates
who have served their sentences are being released without the education, job
training or basic life skills needed to function in society. With few chances to succeed,
they have little choice but to return to crime.
California’s parole policies are also failing. Parole officers are overworked and
overwhelmed. Parolees are receiving neither the services nor support they need to
find jobs, deal with substance abuse or resolve psychological issues. This is wasting
their lives, bankrupting taxpayers and endangering public safety.
Following is our blueprint for fixing California’s broken prison system — a plan that
offers relevant reform at multiple levels. Together, these reforms will save billions of
tax dollars, protect the public and help inmates turn their lives around.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association

In January 2007, we published an analysis of California’s dysfunctional correctional system
entitled From Sentencing to Incarceration to Release: A Blueprint for Reforming California’s
Prison System.
In addition to recommendations for resolving the crisis, the blueprint detailed a
number of factors that have contributed to the deterioration of California’s public safety
infrastructure, including:
•	 Lack of adequate prison and jail space, as well as correctional staff, at the
state and local levels
•	 Lack of effective rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees
•	 Failure to house mentally and physically ill inmates away from the general
population, leading to federal takeover of our state prison’s health care
•	 Lack of a statewide risk assessment tool and application (with corresponding database) for inmates and parolees
The blueprint also offered a series of integrated near- and long-term solutions in four key
areas, summarized as follows.

Public Safety & Infrastructure
To provide for immediate relief of overcrowding, re-open previously closed facilities
while renovating existing ones to provide adequate space for rehabilitation programs;
construct temporary housing structures within existing correctional facilities; and work
collaboratively with local communities to site and construct new facilities — specifically
re-entry facilities, separate facilities for severely physically and mentally ill inmates, and
maximum security facilities.

To allow parole agents to focus their time and resources on offenders who pose the greatest
risk, create a risk assessment tool that is utilized consistently throughout CDCR; and provide
meaningful intermediate sanctions for parolees, along with local re-entry facilities and day
reporting centers to promote rehabilitation.

To reduce California’s future prison population, establish a sentencing commission and
develop a plan to place appropriate offenders in less costly “prison alternative” programs;
conduct a fiscal analysis of any proposed change to criminal law; and ensure that inmate
“good behavior credits” are only awarded for actual participation in rehabilitation programs.

To ensure a well-trained professional workforce, re-establish the Commission on
Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training (C-POST) to provide necessary oversight
and improve officer training; and to promote the attraction and retention of qualified
correctional peace officers, make available a competitive compensation and benefits package.

Since we issued our first Blueprint in January 2007, the Legislature has considered a number
of proposals to reform corrections — the most prominent being AB 900 (Solorio), designed
to solve the CDCR’s overcrowding issue. Unfortunately, this measure was rushed through
the legislative process with no hearings or opportunity for public input just prior to the
deadline for the Governor’s response to the courts on two major overcrowding lawsuits,
Coleman v. Schwarzenegger and Plata v. Schwarzenegger. As such, CCPOA was forced to
oppose the measure as incomplete and premature.
In September 2009, the Legislature approved SB 18 of the Third Extraordinary Session
designed to help solve the state’s historic budget crisis by reducing the corrections budget
by $1 billion. And while it may realize some savings, there is still work to be done to achieve
long-term reform.

AB 900
In May of 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 900 (Solorio) — entitled the
“Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007” — which allocated
over $7 billion to address both overcrowding and expanded rehabilitation as a means of
reducing recidivism.
Since its signing, there have been numerous and considerable changes to the original
plan — but almost no progress. All construction projects are far behind schedule and
significantly over the budgets outlined in the bill.
The following lists both the initial intent, as well as the current status, of AB 900.

Infill Beds
Bill summary: $2.4 billion to construct 16,000 beds on the grounds of existing prisons,
to replace temporary housing in gymnasiums, day rooms, and other public spaces within
the facility.

Status: The most recent public plan calls for using the $2.4 billion to construct only 8,600
infill beds — just over half the number originally intended. To date, nothing has been built
and the anticipated cost per bed has unfortunately doubled.

Rehabilitation Initiatives
Bill summary: $50 million to expand drug treatment, academic education and other
rehabilitative services for inmates and parolees within the CDCR.
Status: To date, $36 million of the $50 million has been spent on substance abuse
treatment for inmates, mental health services for parolees, risk and needs assessments
for some offenders, and information technology systems. Given the massive program
reductions included in the current budget, further efforts to expand rehabilitation are
being abandoned.
In addition, the measure also provided funding for jail construction, upgrades to
CDCR’s institutions and health facilities — however little progress has been made in
most of these areas.

In the initial May Revision to the Budget, the Governor proposed a package of corrections
cuts totaling $400 million. As the state’s budget situation continued to deteriorate, the
Governor subsequently modified his May Revision twice — increasing the CDCR budgetcut target to $1.2 billion.
In passing the final budget bill, the Legislature approved an unallocated reduction to
corrections in the amount of $1.2 billion, leaving the details to either the CDCR (for actions
not requiring law changes) or to subsequent legislative actions.
In September 2009, the Legislature passed SB 18, Third Extraordinary Session, designed to
implement changes to sentencing, credit-earning laws and parole reform.

Following is a summary of the 2009 corrections budget actions:
Parole Reform
Bill Summary: SB 18 requires the CDCR to administer a risk assessment evaluation for
parolees subject to being placed on “banked” caseloads without active supervision. The

risk assessments will target low and medium level non-serious, non-violent offenders
— basically eliminating them from parole services and supervision, with the caveat that
they will continue to be subjected to warrantless search and seizure by law enforcement.
For the remaining parolees — essentially sex offenders and those convicted of serious or
violent offenses — parole agent caseloads will decrease to 45 to1 (from a budgeted level of 70
to 1 prior to this change). In theory, only high-risk, serious, violent or sex offenders will be
placed on active parole caseloads.
Analysis: Only about 20 percent of
convicted felons are sentenced to state
prison. Most non-serious, non-violent
offenders make numerous trips through
the criminal justice system and receive
alternative sanctions many times before
they are ever sent to state prison.

“CDCR has few evidence-based
rehabilitation programs and budget
cuts are likely to devastate the few
that do exist.”

Given this situation, releasing non-serious
and non-violent offenders without parole
services and/or supervision is likely to result in more victims, and more costs for local law
enforcement, prosecution and the courts. As these former inmates are ultimately sentenced
for their new crimes, any savings in the corrections system from not having them on parole
are likely to be offset by the new and longer sentences they serve for the crimes they commit
upon release.
The bottom line: For many offenders, this proposal has eliminated their best chance for
success upon release — with the assistance of their assigned parole agents and services paid
for by the CDCR — and increased local costs to deal with these offenders by eliminating the
“short cut” of parole revocation.

Credit Earning Enhancements
Bill summary: SB 18 allows inmates sentenced for non-violent, non-serious and nonsex offenses to earn up to four months additional credits off their sentence for completing
rehabilitation programs designed to enhance their chances for success upon release.
Analysis: While this proposal makes sense in theory, it fails to recognize that in reality
the CDCR has few evidence-based rehabilitation programs in place, and that the 2009-10
budget cuts are likely to devastate the few that do exist.

Indexing Dollar Thresholds for Property Crime
Bill summary: SB 18 also indexed for inflation many of the monetary thresholds included
in existing law for property crimes. For example, the threshold to make a crime grand theft
was increased from $400 worth of property to $950.

Community Corrections
Bill summary: SB 18 provides $45 million in federal funds as seed money to local
governments for supervision and services for felony probationers, with the goal of reducing
recidivism for these probationers.

Bill summary: As a part of the Governor’s effort to balance the 2008-09 and 2009-10
Budgets, he imposed three furlough days per month on state employees. In the case of
employees working in round-the-clock assignments, such as correctional peace officers, no
provision was made allowing the employees to actually take the furlough time off. Rather,
the governor imposed a pay reduction of more than 14 percent on such employees, and
is forcing them to accumulate the “time off ” on the books as a future state liability. The
practical effect of this action is to create a major ongoing liability for the CDCR, which
will inhibit any efforts to adequately fund rehabilitation programs in future years. This was
acknowledged by the state’s expert witness, Udensky, in CCPOA v. DPA.

Despite the state’s efforts, California’s prison system — and entire public safety
infrastructure — remains in crisis. Overcrowding continues to be a major concern, not
only to public safety officials, but also the federal courts. Per inmate costs continue to
rise — as a result of court-ordered increases in inmate medical costs, as well as inefficient
management. And planned rehabilitation programs have been scuttled due to the state’s
most recent fiscal crisis.
But failure is not an option — our corrections system must be reformed. As such, we
recommend that the California Legislature dedicate 2010 to re-tooling AB 900 — to
develop a sound analytical basis from which to build a safer, more efficient, cost-effective,
and integrated corrections and rehabilitation system. Consistent with the Legislature’s
intent to date, we agree that these efforts should focus on six major areas:
•	 Sentencing
•	 Rehabilitation
•	 Infrastructure
•	 Assessments

•	 Parole
•	 Juvenile Justice
Sentencing. For the last several years, the Legislature has debated the value of a sentencing
commission to simplify California’s complex system of legal punishment. To date, the debate
has centered on the commission’s authority to alter existing or adopt new sentencing laws
— with or without legislative enactment.
However, this debate has obscured a far more important and urgent goal for a sentencing
commission — collecting data and evidence on the population and performance of the
existing criminal justice system. Very little accurate information is available to guide the
Legislature in implementing cost-effective rehabilitation programs or corrections reforms.
As a result, policymakers are forced to make far-reaching decisions without benefit of a
sound analytical foundation.
Currently, the only way to determine an
inmate’s full criminal history — including
arrests, sentencing, incarceration, parole/
probation, re-entry programs, etcetera at
the local, in-state, out-of-state or federal
levels — is a hard paper search, requiring
dozens of man-hours per inmate.

“We recommend that the
Legislature enact a sentencing
commission … to gather accurate,
timely, detailed corrections and

public safety data …”
We recommend that the Legislature enact a
sentencing commission whose mission is to
gather accurate, timely and complete public
safety data — including criminogenic data on inmates, as well as sentencing and parole/
probation services data from each county.
Sentencing and services data will help identify disparities in sanctions and treatment
among counties, while inmates’ criminogenic histories — coupled with a validated
risk assessment tool — will be crucial in evaluating and improving both rehabilitation
programs and disparity in sentencing.
In addition to the inmate data described above, we also recommend that information on
inmates’ education, health, drug use, gang affiliation and family history be factored into any
comprehensive risk assessment tool.

Discussion of whether the commission will or won’t be granted sentencing authority is
premature — and should be postponed until after such time as we have sufficient data to
analyze the existing state and country populations and infrastructure, particularly as it
relates to the promising concepts of specialized courts (i.e., substance abuse and mental
health) and determinate versus indeterminate sentencing.

“Employment may initially
be difficult for felons, but it is
essential in providing them an
alternative to a life of crime.”

In the interest of both fairness and effectiveness,
we recommend a commission with a diverse
membership, including academic experts and
practitioners at both the state and local level,
with equal representation of management and
rank and file.

Assessments. An accurate, evidence-based risk
and needs assessment is key to ensuring that
inmates are matched to appropriate programs and facilities. Ideally, we recommend that
CDCR use a scientifically validated risk and needs instrument to assess each inmate while
they are still housed at the county level. This streamlined process would allow inmates
to be sent directly to the housing most appropriate to their risk and needs (i.e., re-entry
facility, etc.) — as opposed to the current process, which funnels all inmates through state
reception centers regardless of their final destination.
Such assessments will serve as a roadmap for the inmate’s institutional assignments, and
ultimately provide a plan for releasing the parolee into the community with the best
chance to succeed.
In the long-term, we recommend a seamless transfer of inmate information from the local
court system to the state — but this will be a complex and costly process. For example,
even in today’s high-tech society, little if any information from the local judicial system is
available to the CDCR in a timely fashion, thus hindering the existing assessment process.
Eventually, we believe that an individual should be given a risk and needs assessment prior
to sentencing, in conjunction with an expansion of drug and mental health courts.
Rehabilitation. In 2005, California expanded the mission of the Department of
Corrections to include “rehabilitation” — and renamed it accordingly. While previous
budgets intended to expand rehabilitative programs, the Legislature was forced to slash
funding for programs throughout the Department in 2007, 2008 and 2009 — leaving little,
if anything, for these efforts.

CCPOA recognizes the important role that rehabilitation can and should have in the corrections mission — but that this is impossible without the necessary resources and a strong
commitment to evidence-based programs to assist inmates in succeeding upon their release.
Studies show that gainful employment is one of the best tools for reducing recidivism
— however, neither inmates nor parolees in California are receiving the job training or
placement assistance necessary to help overcome the many challenges they face when trying
to find a job after their release.
And while we recognize that not all inmates are amenable to rehabilitation, those that do
have the desire to change and succeed have virtually no programs to assist them in this
admirable goal.
We recommend that the Legislature provide funding for evidence-based, thoroughly
researched rehabilitation programs that provide inmates, as identified by the risk and needs
assessment, with the necessary skills to get and keep a job upon release. We suggest that the
department work with experienced practitioners and academics to develop programs that
best suit the needs of our unique inmate population. One such possibility is to transform the
state’s Prison Industry Authority (PIA) to focus on parolee training and employment.
Employment may initially be difficult for felons,
but it’s essential in providing them an alternative
to a life of crime. Other states have done this
successfully, and we look forward to working with
the Legislature and new Administration to share
this knowledge.
Infrastructure. Since AB 900 has resulted in no
new construction to date, we recommend that the
Legislature restructure this program to focus on
four areas.

“An accurate, evidence-based
risk-and-needs assessment is
key to ensuring that inmates
are matched to appropriate
programs and facilities.”

First, prison construction should be concentrated in security classifications where the
population is most crowded and the consequences for failing to address overcrowding
are the most severe — in other words, maximum-security facilities.
Second, we must revisit the intent of AB 900 in constructing up to 16,000 re-entry beds.
Re-entry needs to be located in urban areas — where released inmates are ultimately going
to live. An ideal re-entry program would serve inmates near the end of their term, and house

them near their county of release where they could obtain employment that could continue
upon their parole. At the time of parole, the inmate would move to another housing
situation, but continue the job they held while living in the re-entry environment. For this
reason, we propose tax incentives for local governments to site and for businesses to locate
near these re-entry facilities — not only for the success of this program, but also for the
economic benefit of the communities as a whole.
Third, the Department needs to construct separate facilities for the severely physically and
mentally ill inmates. These inmate should be housed in facilities that are appropriate for
their needs and that provide the necessary security for their given conditions.
Fourth, assuming that the Legislature is serious about making a long-term commitment
to rehabilitation, the CDCR must re-examine the design, mission and staffing of existing
prisons, as most do not provide sufficient staff or space for successful rehabilitation programs.
Parole. The Legislature’s fiscally-driven decision to eliminate parole supervision of certain
non-serious, non-violent and non-sex offender parolees was intended to realize savings
— based on the argument that with these individuals no longer on parole, they would not
return to state custody as parole violators.

“… the monies devoted to the
DJJ are better spent on staff
and programs that actually
serve wards rather than on

Unfortunately, statistics show that many of these
parolees will be re-arrested and re-prosecuted
(since their parole can no longer be revoked)
— and will ultimately be returned to CDCR
with longer sentences than they would have
served as parole violators. Worse for them, and
more costly for taxpayers.

wasteful overhead.”

Fortunately, the Legislature has voted to reduce
caseloads for the remaining parole population to
45 parolees per parole agent to compensate for
the elimination of the so-called “lightweight” cases. However, this change has not yet been
implemented, so the ultimate effect on public safety remains to be seen.
We also recommend that all persons released from state prison remain on parole for a
minimum of six months in order to receive valuable parole services — with automatic
discharge after that time for those who have maintained a clean, violation-free record.
This is a simple policy change, requiring no legislation.


In past years, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) was only required to hear cases
when parole agents, supervisors and/or the CDCR were in conflict over a parole
recommendation. However, current policy directs all parole decisions to be heard by
the BPH. In 2007, BPH discharged only 500 of the 11,000 parolees recommended for
discharge by their own parole agents and supervisors — needlessly tying up prison beds.
Restoring the previous policy is a far more effective solution.
In past years, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) was only required to hear cases when
parole agents, supervisors and/or the CDCR were in conflict over a parole recommendation.
However, current policy directs all parole decisions to be heard by the BPH. In 2007, BPH
discharged only 500 of the 11,000 parolees recommended for discharge by their own
parole agents and supervisors — needlessly overwhelming the parole system. Restoring the
previous policy is a far more effective solution.
Juvenile Justice. Once considered one of the national leaders in the field, the newly
named Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) — formerly California Youth Authority — has
lost its luster.
DJJ serves an extremely challenging population — with severe substance abuse, mental
health and criminal behaviors. The state’s juvenile courts send only about 300 wards to
the system each year — cases local governments believe they cannot serve under current
conditions. Despite this smaller and more difficult population, an increasingly higher share
of the division’s resources are devoted to overhead and “consultant experts.”
We recommend that the Legislature dramatically reduce DJJ costs — which is currently
about $240,000 per ward — by eliminating excess overhead. And if the Legislature does
move forward with its previously discussed efforts to consolidate, CCPOA looks forward to
sharing its expertise and insights in assisting the Legislature.
While the wards committed to the DJJ are extremely challenging and in need of complex
and costly programs, the monies devoted to the DJJ are better spent on staff and programs
that actually serve wards rather than on wasteful overhead.

As the California residents, taxpayers and personnel who serve on the front lines of the state’s
correctional system, the members of CCPOA have a direct and vested interest in the future of
corrections and public safety policy.


We call on the new Administration, new and returning members of the Legislature, and all
key stakeholders to participate in a clear and open working group process, and to devote the
substantial time that will be necessary to develop meaningful, feasible and effective solutions
in the coming years.
In the coming weeks, CCPOA will propose legislation to begin moving forward on rehabilitating
the CDCR. The changes necessary will take open, honest discussion and commitment from all
stakeholders. It took decades for the corrections system to get to this point, and we’re committed
to what will undoubtedly be a lengthy process of recovery and renewal.
Thank you for your interest in our views. Questions pertaining to this document can be
directed to Chuck Alexander at 916-372-6060.


755 Riverpoint Drive • West Sacramento, CA 95605