On December 28, AFSC Regional Director Laura Magnani and another member of the “mediation team” met with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Undersecretary Terri McDonald to discuss CDCR progress on changing policies and procedures for gang validation into the SHUs (security housing units). In that meeting, Undersecretary McDonald stated the following points.
1. CDCR is moving into a behavior-based policy for SHU assignments, i.e., one based on overt, observed post-sentencing behaviors, not on earlier opinions and labeling. Prisoners could be designated as member of “security threat groups” without being consigned to a SHU – and SHU prisoners without pending disciplinary action could be re-evaluated for return to less restrictive housing. (It remains to be seen how broadly CDCR will define “behaviors.”)
2. CDCR is also developing a 4-stage “stepdown” program for transitioning SHU prisoners – Step 1 being high security and Step 4 the general prison population. Debriefing – testifying against previous gang associates – would not be required for stepdown.
3. CDCR has drafted a “concept paper” on these new policies, which they intend to circulate to “national experts” in early January. (2007 recommendations by such experts were not implemented due to costs considerations.) The concept paper will not be available to prisoners nor their advocates until after the experts respond, CDCR hopes, by late January or early February.
4. Revising after experts’ comments, CDCR will present the policies to “stakeholders” – Legislators, community police specializing in gangs, the Prison Law Office, the mediation team, and others – for feedback. After hearing from stakeholders, CDCR will turn its concepts into detailed regulations. Those will be published, subjected to official public hearings, and negotiated with the unions. All this will take time. The stepdown program can be initiated sooner.
For additional details, and for ongoing updates, see the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website.