CDCR To Expand In-Person Visitations; Active Cases Cross 100 After Weeks of Low Numbers

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By Julietta Bisharyan and Yasmeen Khan

CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes

As of Aug. 1, there have been a total of 49,542 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 123 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 123 cases are active in custody, while 604 have been released while active. 

A total of 48,583 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic, and 232 individuals have died.

In the past two weeks, Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) has tested the most individuals, 63 percent of its population. California Institution for Women (CIW) has tested the least individuals, just 45 percent of its population. 

A total of 133,363 patients have been tested cumulatively. 31,123 patients have been tested in the last two weeks across CDCR.

CDCR announced that it will discontinue on-site testing for visitors. Visitors must instead present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Starting Aug. 2, all CDCR and CCHCS state employees will show proof of full vaccination status, or they will be subject to regular intervals of COVID-19 testing.

A third day of in-person visiting will also launch Aug. 13 on Fridays, as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 state budget. As of now, visiting had  been limited to weekends only.

The third day of in-person visiting received $20.3 million in the 2021-22 state budget in an effort to increase opportunities for incarcerated people to connect with their families and friends.

“This has been a tough year for our population and their loved ones, and we are so excited to be able to expand visiting, and ensure they continue to have critical connections that can help with their rehabilitation,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison.

There are currently 98,959 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – a reduction of 23,450 since March 2020, when the prison outbreaks first began.

Effect on Public

On July 21, 2021 CDCR announced that it will suspend the expedited release of incarcerated people in the 180-day cohort at the end of July. 

This early release group includes individuals who have 180 days or less to serve on their sentence, are not serving time for domestic violence or violent crime, not registered as sex offenders, and not at a high risk of violence.  

CDCR had estimated that under this program, 4,800 people could be eligible for release by the end of July 2021.

Many District attorneys and victim rights groups have expressed their strong disposition against CDCR early release programs. 

 44 California District Attorneys have filed lawsuits against the CDCR, claiming that expedited releases are unlawful and jeopardize the safety and rights of victims.

In person visiting continues to remain at limited capacity and at the discretion of CDCR staff. The CDCR suspended in person visiting in March of 2020, and then on April 10, 2021 began reopening in-person and hybrid in-person/video visiting.  

Many have complained that in-person visitation during the pandemic has become a much more difficult process. Loved ones have dealt with major limitations to in person visiting, crashes on the scheduling site, and shortened meeting times. 

While restrictions on visitation bear a significant burden on incarcerated individuals and their loved ones, the CDCR saved a considerable amount of money from suspended visitations. According to CDCR documents, suspending in-person visiting from March 2019 to January 2021 saved over $35 million. 

Reopening

According to CDCR, two facilities are currently in Phase 1 in CDCR’s road to reopening plan. Phase 1 indicates that the prison has facilities that currently have an outbreak or are recovering from a recent outbreak of COVID-19.

Twenty-four facilities are in Phase 2, meaning there is partial reopening and modified gradual easing of Phase 1 restrictions.

208 facilities are in Phase 3, which indicates new normal programming. Reopening of programs and services will be reviewed and implemented weekly by the institution, according to the plan. If a facility experiences an outbreak, it must revert to Phase 1 restrictions.

California Correctional Center (CCC) has the most facilities, all 19, under Phase 3. Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) has the most facilities in Phase 2, seven facilities total.

CDCR Staff

Governor Gavin Newsom terminated executive orders that put into the place the Stay-at-Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy effective Jun. 15, 2021, meaning State departments are no longer required to collect and report absentee data. 

As a result, CDCR will no longer be collecting or reporting COVID-19 data for their employees.

The final cumulative employee COVID-19 data shows that there have been a total of 17,002 cases and 28 deaths among staff members statewide. 

Division of Juvenile Justice

As of Jul. 26, there are no active cases of COVID-19 among youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities. 205 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June 2020.

A Year Ago Today

Last year, Division of Juvenile Justice suspended intake from county facilities at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility and at the Northern California Youth Correctional Complex in Stockton.

A year ago, the incarcerated population inside California state prisons fell below 100,000 persons –– the first time in three decades. 

On Aug. 1, 2020, there were 8,403 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CDCR. In California, there were 513,078.

References

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/victoriavalenzuela/prison-visits-california-pandemic

https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/news/2021/07/30/california-department-of-corrections-and-rehabilitation-to-launch-third-day-of-in-person-visiting-in-august/

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About The Author

Aparna Komarla leads the Covid In-Custody project, which partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic's impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye. See www.covidincustody.org for more information.

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