The CDCR has reduced the placement scores for LWOP’s, which is about half of the men on the Progressive Programming Facility, and raised the scores for Level IV (60+). There is no Level III general population facility in the Los Angeles area. This program, for all of its many flaws, still remains the best functioning, most opportunities-offering spot in the system. Many of the men want to stay close to their families, continue in the kind of rehabilitative programming necessary to earn a date, and stay a part of this functioning environment.
Supporters of the Progressive Programming Facility in the free world are preparing to mount another campaign to keep the program intact. On July 11, 2012, at the next meeting of the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board, family members of the men will present to Secretary Cate a petition signed by over three-quarters of the yard attached to a simple proposal that calls for allowing any participant in the Progressive Programming Facility who wants to stay, regardless of his new point score, to stay.
On July 12, 2012, copies of the proposal and petition will be received by roughly 100 officials of the state government, in all three branches, and information will go live on www.prisonhonorprogram.org encouraging people to sign an online petition and offering simple downloadable sample letters. Additionally, numerous activist organizations will join our struggle by asking their hundreds of members to step up and publicly support our position. All efforts to alert the media will be taken.
Everyone who cares about rehabilitation and reform to the dysfunctional prison system needs to sit down and write a letter, send an e-mail, make a call, and engage in direct democracy.
Contact should be made no earlier than July 12, 2012.
Here are some of the relevant parties that you could contact. Secretary Cate is the person with the most direct influence. Of course, if you know of other people of influence who could make a difference in this struggle, please contact them, too. And, finally, please forward this message to everyone on your contact list. Thank you.
Secretary Matthew Cate
California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Robert Barton, Inspector General
Office of the Inspector General
3927 Lennane Drive, Suite 220
Sacramento, CA 95834
The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor of the State of California
State Capitol #1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Kamala Harris, Attorney General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Senator Loni Hancock
Senate Public Safety Committee, Chair
Capitol Building #2082
Sacramento, CA 95814
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
Assembly Public Safety Committee, Chair
Capitol Building #4005
Sacramento, CA 95814
Here’s the proposal we’re putting before Secretary Cate as an alternative to their plan.
The following is a proposal to implement a formal classification system action that would allow for the roughly 50% of the population of the Progressive Programming Facility (PPF) at California State Prison-Los Angeles County (CSP-LAC) who are now Level III to remain a vital part of this important program.
Attached to this proposal is a voluntary petition signed by 381 prisoner-participants of the PPF, which is 75% of the total number of men currently assigned to the program, that calls for the continuation of the program and of the current group. (This is a very high participation rate for an in-prison petition.)
We all feel this is a reasonable and prudent course of action for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) that will further the goal of positive and fundamental transformation.
II. The Nature & History of the PPF
The PPF is the direct descendant of the Honor Program, originally instituted by then-Warden Roe in 2000 at CSP-LAC. This remarkable program immediately reformed a dysfunctional facility and generated shock waves that continue to reverberate throughout the prison system. The program, based on holding individuals accountable, setting high expectations, and rewarding positive behavior has saved enormous, well-documented amounts of money, attracted considerable favorable media attention, and sparked landmark legislation in the California Legislature sponsored by former Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero.
A dozen years later, the renamed PPF is still the model facility in the Level IV system, outperforming most all of the Level III’s, as well. The violent, self-destructive, and dangerous culture that pervades much of the CDCR in both the general population and sensitive needs yards systems does not exist on the PPF. There is almost no violence, and no one, staff or prisoner, has been seriously injured on this facility in years.
One of the unique features of the PPF is the large cohort of older, more experienced men, mostly life without parole sentenced, who have functioned from the outset as the keel of the program. This group, who number close to 300 or about half of the facility, are the core leadership group that have enabled the culture change to take place, often against stiff resistance from many quarters. The loss of this group in a relatively brief period of time would undoubtedly threaten the stability of the program.
Allowing all PPF-qualified prisoners to remain in the program would create the needed synergy around which to build out into the rest of the prison system and maintain the effective social infrastructure that has achieved so much already. This would also send a clear message to the entire system that positive behavior is to be rewarded and acknowledged, a crucial component of any attempt to institute systemic reform of the CDCR.
The men of the PPF, many of whom would be transferred to non-functioning Level III institutions, have succeeded in creating much already. Peer-to-peer education programs, the first Dantes Subject Standardized Test (DSST) center approved in a California prison, and a thriving and vibrant collection of Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAG’s) and self-help groups are but a few of the many positive facets of the PPF.
Future plans include realizing a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to provide modular construction projects for this world-renowned and highly respected nonprofit, expanding out our college programs to include the College Level Examination Program, managed by the College Board, testing system, and activating a sports-oriented ILTAG that would raise money for donation to local youth athletics programs.
III. Reasons for Keeping the Group Together
“In addition to reentry hubs, the department will designate certain facilities as enhanced-programming units in order to support and create incentives for inmates who, based on their own behaviors and choices, are ready to take full advantage of programming opportunities. Program options in these institutions will be primarily academic and career technical education programs, volunteer, and self-help programs.” The Future of California Corrections, page 24
We who have participated in and desire to remain a part of the only current “programming yard” could not agree with the above more. Clearly, the history of the Honor Program/PPF fits squarely into this paradigm and may have been a positive influence on this aspirational goal. It seems only logical to keep the only programming yard together and functioning as a compass point toward which future expansion projects can be aimed.
In the current fiscal crisis every expenditure should be carefully reviewed. The transfer of 300 men from the PPF to the various Level III institutions, and the transfer in of 300 men from other Level IV institutions, does not seem a prudent use of scarce government funds, particularly in light of the fact that the CDCR can accomplish the mandated population redistribution on this facility for virtually no cost at all. Here’s how it could work:
CSP-LAC, Facility-A, Housing Unit #5 will be converted back from an administrative segregation (overflow) unit to a 150-bed 270° design general population unit. Housing Units #1, #2, and #3, currently at 200 men per building, will be reduced to 150 men in each building. This means 150 PPF participants could walk their property over to Housing Unit #5, costing the state nothing for transportation. Taking this simple, expeditious step would save the state the cost of roughly 600 bus transfers, surely not an insignificant amount. (The current occupants of the administrative segregation overflow unit would not qualify for PPF placement, thus necessitating transfer in any case.)
We also feel strongly that the commitment prisoner-participants signed, which holds each one of us to a strict standard of conduct and a higher level of expectation implies the existence of a de facto contract. While we recognize that no actual contractual obligation exists, we do believe, nonetheless, that it is reasonable to impute some degree of moral and ethical obligation to this group of men that stepped outside the expectations of the reigning prison culture to create and sustain this program. Extending a fair deal in this case is warranted.
Finally, all of us who have had the opportunity to read The Future of California Corrections were, frankly, shocked to see not a single Level III bed for general population prisoners in the Los Angeles area. Designating this facility eligible to Levels III and IV, if PPF qualified, would at least partially alleviate this omission on the planning process.
To bring this proposal to activation, we propose one of the following:
1. Designate the PPF, on Facility-A at CSP-LAC, as a hybrid Level III/IV facility. We urge this option as the simplest and most likely to promote the long-term stability of the PPF. This would require only a memorandum from the Secretary or the Director.
2. Direct the CSR to grant an override to all qualified PPF participants requesting to remain a part of the program, which would allow those Level III’s to remain voluntarily housed on a Level IV facility. (Because Option #2 would render continued placement to a more contingent level of certainty, we urge Option #1; however, if that proves impossible to implement at this time, Option #2 protects the immediate interests of both the program and the group.)
Upon the conversion of Housing Unit #5 back to a general population unit, bed move 50 men out of Housing Units #1, #2, and #3, respectively, thus creating four 150-man PPF units.
The PPF is a program worth saving. The remarkable achievements of the men, who have made the difficult choice to embrace a culture of positive conduct and nonviolence, over a period of a dozen years, have influenced the course of the CDCR toward a different kind of corrections. The longer-term goal of transforming the prison system into a more productive programming/non-programming paradigm starts here on the PPF. This is ground zero for the foundational transformation coming down the road.
The participants of the PPF have worked hard to earn the consideration of the leadership of the CDCR. What we request would not cost a penny and would not create any risk to the safety and security of the public, staff, or any other prisoners. Granting our request would, instead, save money, protect the general welfare, and allow for the continuation of a model program worthy of continuing.
Thank you for your consideration.
RELEVANT TITLE 15 CODES
California Code of Regulations, Title 15
Article 10. Classification
3375. Classification Process.
(a) The classification process shall be uniformly applied, commencing upon reception of a person committed to the custody of the secretary and shall continue throughout the time the individual remains under the secretary’s jurisdiction. Each inmate shall be individually classified in accordance with this article. Senate Bill 618 Participants, as defined in section 3000 and pursuant to subsection 3077.1(a)(1)(C), shall receive a preliminary classification at a county facility prior to reception at a departmental institution.
(b) The classification process shall take into consideration the inmate’s needs, interests and desires, his/her behavior and placement score in keeping with the department and institution’s/facility’s program and security missions and public safety.
(i) An inmate shall not remain at a institution/facility with a security level which is not consistent with the inmate’s placement score unless approved by a classification staff representative (CSR) or a staff person designated to serve in that capacity.
3375.2. Administrative Determinants.
(a) An inmate meeting one or more of the following administrative or irregular placement conditions, known as administrative determinants, may be housed in a facility with a security level which is not consistent with the inmate’s placement score:
(b) The following three-letter codes are used to indicate those administrative or irregular placement conditions known as administrative determinants, which may be imposed by departmental officials to override the placement of an inmate at a facility according to his/her placement score.
(10) FAM. Inmate has strong family ties to a particular area where other placement would cause an unusual hardship.
(21) SCH. Inmate is involved in an academic program which is not available at a facility with a security level that is consistent with his/her placement score.
(26) VOC. Inmate is involved in a vocational program which is not available at a facility with a security
 CSP-LAC, Facility-A, currently has three 270° design units designated for PPF participants that hold, at 200% capacity, 600 men. However, 68 “transitional” non-PPF prisoners are being housed in one of the units pending their transfer to other institutions, with 24 empty beds currently.
 Included in this package is a handbook created for newly arriving prisoner-participants that more fully details the activities on the PPF.
 We note that in The Future of California Corrections the administrative segregation unit to be converted to general population listed is Housing Unit #4, but we assume this is an error based on the actual physical construction of the respective units.
 Authority and precedence for this type of action is found at 15 CCR §§ 3375(a), (b) & (i), and 3375.2(a) & (b)(10), (21) & (26). A copy of these provisions is attached to this package.