California Prison Refromation Plan

Terry B. Davis

 

It is clear that the current state of Corrections in California does not make inmates and parolee's responsible for their rehabilitation. That early release from prisons and parole do not serve the best interests of the State of California's citizens, inmates or parolees. This plan is merely a guide line for the incorporation of a rehabilitation plan that places the responsibility of their rehabilitation on the inmates and parolees. That allows the State to reduce costs of incarceration and to better utilize resources earmarked for rehabilitation programs.

California's' Department of Correction has a twofold responsibility to its citizens;

  • 1. Protection of the citizens of the State of California by incarceration of person's committed to their care and custody by the courts.
  • 2. To assist person's committed to prison in a process that offers them the opportunity to participate in programs, designed to return them to the community, as law abiding, productive members of their community.

In order to accomplish these goals there are a number of current laws and judicial procedures that will need to be addressed. The goal of these changes are too, change the sentencing guide lines to enhance the rehabilitative process. To set undetermined sentences that insure that the inmates conduct and performance in the rehabilitative process will be the measurement used that determines when they will be released.

The structure of the prisons will also change. The older prisons that require excessive staffing, due to their structure and unique physical characteristics, will be closed and the land sold. This will allow the state to generate revenue for new construction and operational costs. Prisons such as Folsom and San Quentin would generate much needed revenue and reduce operational cost per inmate housed.

The new institutions are more suited to the new operational needs of a prison system built on the concept of incarceration and rehabilitation. The prisons physical lay-out will be in the form of a hub, with all levels represented, and all services concentrated to the level designed for either incarceration or rehabilitation. Most prisons are built on large areas of land and have plenty of room for the physical lay-out of the new prison systems and can accommodate, housing needs, educational needs relating to trades and agriculture. Use of inmate labor associated with the trades, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other related trades will be utilized as part of the programs to enhance inmate training, development, and construction of housing units. Agricultural trades will be utilized to produce foods for consumption. Dairy and livestock facilities to provide training, milk, meat, and meat products for consumption. Mental Health and Health care facilities will be utilized to treat inmates and as training for jobs in those related fields. Each hub will be as self sufficient as possible to reduce costs and provide needed hands on training for the inmate programs associated with those fields.

Additional cost savings will come in the form of reduced employee costs. Utilizing the inmate involved in the job portion of the rehabilitative process, they will construct homes and apartments for the employee's. The employee's can choose to either live in the State constructed housing at a cost 10% below the community housing costs for the type of housing needed, with utilities paid by the state as well as up keep. The landscaping, and up keep will be performed by inmates in the last phase of their training programs. Employee's costs will automatically be deducted from their paycheck. Additionally, Motel style rooms will be built and used by all state travel if within distance of their destination to be effective in reducing costs associated with that travel as compared to the current system. All labor needed to operate the facilities will come from inmates in the final phase of their rehabilitation program.

Medical and Mental Health facilities will meet or exceed standards utilized for facilities in the private sector. These facilities will be staffed at appropriate levels to insure the best available care and reduce the need for transportation of inmates to outside facilities. Hubs that are located within acceptable vicinity of each other may utilize the same facilities. The medical facilities will be expected to have all available services of a private sector hospital with clinics located in all levels for routine health care needs. The mental health facilities will also maintain adequate facilities to meet the institutional needs that again correspond to those located in the private sector. Staffing will consist of state employees and inmates in the training programs and those in the final phase of the rehabilitative process.

The courts will sentence persons found guilty of crimes to;

  • 1. Death.
  • 2. Life in Prison without the possibility of parole.
  • 3. Eight years to life.
  • 4. Six years to life.

Inmates sentenced to Death will remained confined to their individual cells 24 hours a day. They will be treated humanely, allowed to read religious books, and allowed to write one letter a week to loved one's or family member. No visiting, except attorney visits, no telephone calls. No recreation as inmates can and do work out in their cells and maintain the level of fitness they desire. They can give themselves sponge baths from the sinks located in their cell. Prior to the implementation of their sentence they will be allowed a supervised visitation with family and loved ones to allow them their final good bye's. Misconduct by the inmate or family can result in visitation not being allowed or early termination of the visit. Staffing at this level will be reduced, due to the reduced movement of inmates from their cell.

Inmates sentenced to life w/o parole, will be housed in the level four facilities for no less than two years. Upon completion of two years with no disciplinary actions, and a review by staff, may be recommended for placement in a level three facility. At the level three facilities they will be allowed to perform work as needed by the institution for 8 hours a day, and receive a shower upon completion of work. They will be allowed one non contact visit every three months. Any misconduct will be reviewed by staff, and may result in the return to the level four facilities.

One of the largest disruptions in prison operations is the violence associated with gang activity. Any inmate sentenced to eight or six years to life, with a conviction for gang enhancements, or has been certified as a gang member or associate, will not be allowed to be housed in any facility other than a level four until he has debriefed and signed a legally binding agreement, which states he will not participate or have contact with any gangs, gang members or gang associates. The debriefing must be accurate and complete to include all information the inmate has regarding all facets of the gang members, activities and crimes that he and others have been involved with. This debriefing document will also include an immunity clause. No information he gives may be used against him in any form of fashion, and that he is willing to testify in court regarding any information that he has given. If at any time, after completing the debriefing process, he commits any infraction regarding gang activities or contact, or gave misinformation or was less than 100% truthful in his debriefing, the immunity clause will become null and void opening the individual up to new charges and a return to the level four facility.

This may seem harsh, however an individual's contact and involvement with gangs, gang members, and associates directly oppose the concept of rehabilitation and becoming a law abiding and productive member of his community. Additionally, gang member's influence and disruption in a rehabilitative system would decrease other inmate's ability to complete the rehabilitative process.

Inmates sentenced to eight or six years to life have basically the same program, but the additional 2 year term would be utilized for violent criminals or those whose criminal history would indicate a career criminal type of behavior.

All inmates begin the rehabilitative process at the level four facilities. After completion of one year, with good behavior and no adverse actions the inmate's record will be reviewed by staff. The staff will either recommend reduction to the level three facilities, or retention in the level four, and set anywhere from a quarterly to annual review for reduction to a level three.

Once at the level three facility for a minimum of a year the inmate's record will again be reviewed and recommendations made for either reduction to level two or to be retained at level three. If retained at the level three, a review will be conducted anywhere from quarterly to annually.

Misconduct at the level three facilities will be reviewed and depending on the severity of the misconduct, the inmate may be retained in the level three facility or returned to the level four facility for the minim of one year.

Once an inmate at the level three has been recommended and approved for reduction to the level two facilities, he will begin testing. The testing will be conducted at the level three facilities in a class room setting. Testing will consist of educational level testing, aptitude and job placement. Inmates who fail to comply with the testing process will be treated the same as inmates who have misconduct or failure to comply with the rehabilitative process. At this stage inmates with learning or cognitive disabilities will be tested further to ascertain at what level and training would be needed for them to become self-sufficient upon their release to parole. Upon completion of this testing phase, and with the inmates participation a program will be designed for the individual, which will consist of general or advanced education or inclusion into a trades program. Once the program has been set the inmate will be transferred to a level two facility that has that particular program.

The level two facilities will be geared towards the inmates program needs. In addition to a skill or educational program he will be taught how to set record and evaluate a budget, and required to maintain a written budget.

The inmates may now have a type of savings account that will allow them to buy non necessary items. Also prior to release to parole the inmate will be required to pay off all fines, and court ordered restitution. All money that the inmate receives or that he enters the system with, a portion will be withheld to pay fines and restitution. If the inmate has an excessive amount of restitution or fines owed, after a review taking all information into account he may be allowed to parole. However, any failure to complete payments will result in a continuation on parole or a return to custody at the lowest level. Inmates may write and mail letter's anytime at their own expense. Visitation with loved ones or immediate family members, no more than once a month, with prior approval. All visitors must undergo a background check, for employment and criminal history. Felony or recent misdemeanor arrest will be cause for denial of visits. As well as any involvement with gangs, gang members or associates, as these would be considered in direct opposition to the rehabilitation process.

Any misconduct or serious violation of the rehabilitative process, depending on the severity of the misconduct may result in return to a level four facility or any level higher than the current level the inmate was in at the time of the misbehavior. The inmate will then be required to work his way thru the rehabilitative process just as if he was a new arrival.

The inmate will remain in the level two phase until he has completed his educational training, received a journeyman's certificate in a trade, or has demonstrated mastery of his chosen program. At the level one facility the inmate will learn to complete applications for employment, interview skills, and budgeting. At this level he will either be hired by the state to perform work at the institutions, or may seek employment in the community. Once he begins working a savings account will be made. The inmate will be charged for housing and food costs as a percentage based on his income. He will be required to save a portion of his income, which will be utilized by the inmate to support himself upon release to parole. At the level one facility, after gaining employment and a review by staff the inmate will be moved to an apartment on the prison grounds, in an environment similar to housing in the community. This will allow the inmate to get accustom to dealing with everyday life situations outside of a controlled prison environment.

Release to parole will be predicated on the inmate having secure employment, amount of funds in his savings to secure appropriate housing, travel expenses and living expenses for a min. of three months.

While on parole the, now parolee, will maintain extensive records, including income, expense's, any item's purchased, food, clothing appliances, personal electronics, basically any item that takes money must be accounted for and maintain a list of those items. Once a month the parolee must report to his assigned, accounting parole agent. This agent will review his monthly records, statements, income and listing of all items in the parolee's possession. If the parolee fails to adhere to these standards he may be returned to the institution at any level from four to one depending on the severity of the violation. In addition to an accounting parole agent, the parolee will be assigned a field agent. The field agent will do unannounced employment visits and home visits. The field agent will verify all possessions of the parolee and visually check for items in the parolee's possession that are not recorded. Violations found by the field agent can result in intermediate sanctions to return to the institutions, based on the severity of the violation.

After one year of parole supervision, with no violations, the parolee may be recommended for release from parole. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Board of prison terms. They will review his employment and all documentation regarding the parolee while on parole. The parolee will also be interviewed regarding any and all facets of his life and conduct while on parole. The parolee may only be retained on parole by the board if they can articulate a compelling reason to do so.

After five years from the date he is released from parole, a certificate of rehabilitation may be obtained. The ex-parolee must present employment records for the five years, tax returns and letters from his employer, family members, and community members that have had direct contact with him. A background check will be performed, interviews of neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers and any other person(s) deemed appropriate by the investigators. A formal hearing will be conducted, all information will be reviewed, and the ex-parolee will be interviewed and given the opportunity to clear up any mistakes or errors. The board can only denied the request when verifiable information is received that demonstrates the individual is not a law abiding, productive member of the community.

If an ex-parole is committed to the Department of Correction on a new term, he must go through the entire rehabilitation process. After having completed the rehabilitation process twice, upon the third conviction, he will be considered a rehabilitative failure and a career criminal and must be sentenced to Life in prison with-out the possibility of parole.

I have designed this program to reduce costs at the level three and four facilities and to concentrate funds and programs at the level two and one programs. This program protects the public and gives criminals the opportunity to lead a normal, law abiding, productive life in our communities. An inmate's/Parolee's success or failure rests with them, they can either rehabilitate themselves with our assistance or spend their life in prison where the public is safe.

This system is designed to reward appropriate behavior and punish negative behavior. The first priority is public safety, the second is rehabilitation. As law abiding citizens we have been separated from our families and loved ones. We have not had visits and in some cases cannot talk with them, we are either working or learning a skill or change in location for our jobs. The best way to mend family problems and ties that inmates have used an abused is to show them that the inmate is changing, working hard to do the right thing. When he is released he will have had several years of employment, money in the bank and a feeling of accomplishment that he has earned.

I believe that this program will reduce prison populations after the sixth and seventh year of its implementation. It took us decades to get to this point and it will be an ongoing process that will take use years to correct.

You and I cannot rehabilitate anyone except ourselves. No matter how good our intentions are, there is nothing we can do. The burden of rehabilitation rests with the individual, we can give them the opportunity, and the environment to encourage them to change, but the ultimate decision is theirs and they should be held accountable for their success as well as their failure.

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