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Dept. of Corrections Implements New COVID-19 Protection Measures

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Tuesday introduced additional measures to protect staff and inmates at the state’s institutions from the spread of COVID-19.

The measures will increase both capacity and physical space at the state’s prisons, which will allow the department to increase physical distancing, and assist it with isolation and quarantine efforts for suspected or positive COVID-19 cases.

The department has taken several actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including temporarily suspending the intake of new inmates, cancellation of in-person visiting, practicing physical distancing and providing hand sanitizer across the system.

CDCR’s new plan includes expediting the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a sex offense, or domestic violence. The plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well maximizing open spaces in the prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options.

“We do not take these new measures lightly. Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety – of our staff, of the incarcerated population, of others inside our institutions, and of the community at large,” said CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz. “However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

These new measures build on many others already taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to all who work and live in the state prison system. Those measures include:

  • Mandatory verbal and temperature screenings for staff before they enter any institutions and other CDCR work sites
  • Suspension of intake from county jails, projected to reduce the population by 3,000 within 30 days
  • Suspension of visitation; inmates will get additional free phone calls to their loved ones, made available through a partnership with inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL)
  • Suspension of access by volunteers and rehabilitative program providers
  • Suspension of inmate movement, other than for critical purposes
  • Measures to support increased physical distancing, including reducing the number of inmates who use common spaces at the same time
  • Reinforced commitment to hygiene both institutional and personal, including greater availability of soap and hand sanitizer
  • Developed comprehensive health care guidelines based on CDC and CDPH recommendations for correctional settings, which includes procedures for infection control, assessment, testing, treatment, proper use of PPE and quarantine/isolation. Deployed educational materials for staff on the new guidelines, including posters, quick reference pocket guides, webinars and websites.
  • Modified the delivery of non-emergent health care procedures such as routine dentals cleanings to redirect supplies of PPE. Created a network among all state-managed facilities to redirect PPE as needed.
  • Created handouts, posters and continually updated video messaging for the population about COVID-19 and what CDCR and CCHCS is doing to respond to the virus.

As of March 30, 22 employees and four inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. For updated information, please view the department’s Patient Testing Tracker.

CDCR estimates that up to 3,500 incarcerated persons would be eligible for an expedited transition to parole. The department is preparing on-site multidisciplinary teams at each institution to expedite the pre-release coordination. Review of potential expedited transition will first focus on those with less than 30 days to serve, then those with less than 60 days to serve. Returning individuals will release to state parole or local probation supervision, or will discharge, depending on their individual sentence.

CDCR will also immediately expand space in community-based parolee programs, particularly for those at risk of homelessness or housing instability. Additionally, the department has been in communication with its county partners regarding these measures and will coordinate with them to promote a successful reentry. Finally, all victim notification requirements are being met.

For updates and information on CDCR’s efforts to protect staff and inmates from COVID-19, visit here.

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