January 24, 2008
OVERVIEWThe Governor’s Rehabilitation Strike Team report provides a significant and detailed roadmap that is vital to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s efforts to successfully implement rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees under our supervision. This report builds on the work of the expert panel and the mandates of AB 900, and lays out much needed guidelines and a reasonable time-frame to integrate a new approach to the California corrections system that ultimately improves the operation of our prison and parole system while enhancing public safety.
Over the past two years, CDCR has worked steadily to refocus its efforts in providing rehabilitative programs to inmates and parolees. The department is fully committed to implementing such reforms as detailed in various reports, including this Strike Team Report on Rehabilitation. CDCR has been working hand-in-hand with both the Rehabilitation and Facilities Strike Teams, and has mutual goals to provide significant and sensible rehabilitation services that have proven to be successful.
In May 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law historic prison reform legislation, AB 900, or the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007. To assist CDCR in implementing AB 900, the Governor established two strike teams composed of more than 30 experts from universities, community organizations, and state government.
- Facilities Strike Team focused on prison construction issues
- Rehabilitation Strike Team focused on developing and implementing prison and parole programs
INITIATIVES TO BRING REHABILITATION BACK TO CDCR
Since September 2007, the Rehabilitation Strike Team began pursuing a four-pronged strategy for bringing rehabilitation programs back into the California corrections system. These initiatives include:
- Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Plan – assesses inmates’ needs at intake (an effort already begun by CDCR) and directs inmates to appropriate rehabilitation programs and services in prison and parole;
- Rehabilitation-oriented Training Curriculum – identifies training curriculum for correctional and rehabilitation staff, and a method for delivering that curriculum via the California Community College Districts;
- Prison to Employment Program – designed to facilitate offenders’ successful employment after release, initially using California’s existing Workforce Investment Boards, and eventually implementing a comprehensive “New Start” employment program;
- Parole Reform – anchored in the structural possibility of earned discharge or banked caseloads, and guided by a new risk assessment tool and a parole violation decision making matrix.
These recommendations require partnerships agreements, the timing of which is not totally in CDCR’s control. CDCR needs sufficient resources to implement these recommendations. Although the Strike Team believes CDCR has enough resources currently to begin implementation, further resources will be needed as programs expand and program priorities surface.
In addition to these broad initiatives, the Strike Team Report made specific recommendations on ways to:
- Develop case management to “get the right inmate, to the right program, at the right time”
- Identify rehabilitation curriculum and appropriately train CDCR Personnel
- Assist prisoners to prepare for and obtain employment after release Realign parole resources with offender risks and needs
CAN AND WILL CORRECTIONS REFORM HAPPEN?
At least three statewide commissions have endorsed similar proposals over the past five years, including the California Independent Review Panel, chaired by former Gov. George Deukmejian. The Strike Team has found that similar “best practices” proposals have worked in other states. CDCR has committed to getting this proposal done. Secretary James Tilton established several high-level administration positions, including Undersecretary for Administration and Undersecretary for Rehabilitation. In addition, aggressive recruitment efforts resulted in filling of 51 key managerial vacancies. These efforts set the stage for implanting needed reforms. The Strike Team concluded that such transformation requires the following:
- Leadership to create clear and compelling vision;
- Line staff participation to build internal support and overcome resistance;
- Political and public support;
- Sufficient resources; and
- A realistic timeframe to implement.