CDCR updates COVID-19 status

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provided information on COVID-19 and the state’s prison system.

According to a May 4 statement from CDCR, there are 330 incarcerated persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the statement, he California Institution for Men has seen an increase in positive inmate cases as a result of expanded testing at the institution. These asymptomatic patients do not represent a new outbreak, the testing data will help us identify who is negative and help us identify better medical care and housing needs for those who are positive. There are currently 287 tests pending at CIM. Currently, the turnaround time for COVID-19 test results is approximately 48 to 72 hours.

There are currently 159 CDCR/CCHCS employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to CDCR, no employees in Lassen County have tested positive.

In April, CDCR and JPay reduced the cost of electronic messaging at the prisons piloting the functionality: High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California Institution for Women, Central California Women’s Facility and the Kern Valley State Prison Substance Abuse Treatment Facility. Since the price reduction, approximately 10,000 incarcerated individuals at the five sites used this system to send and receive 1.5 million messages. This represents a 37 percent increase in messaging when compared to the month of March. The price reduction will continue through the duration of the pandemic.

In April, CDCR and JPay also introduced an inbound email process at CDCRs prisons that do not have the electronic messaging capability. Using this service, family members send an email to their incarcerated loved ones. Prison mailroom staff receives and prints the emails, which are then delivered to inmates via the normal mail delivery process. Since this program began April 10, more than 32,000 messages have been received. In addition to the messages, incarcerated individuals received over 35,000 photos and e-cards.  This service is available at adult prisons and juvenile facilities, and will continue into 2022.

Executives and staff at CDCR and CCHCS are working closely with infectious disease control experts to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our operations. To ensure CDCR is ready to immediately respond to any COVID-19 related incident, CDCR/CCHCS activated the Department Operations Center in order to be fully prepared to respond to any departmental impacts resulting from COVID-19. The DOC is a central location where CDCR/CCHCS experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information centrally in order to make decisions and provide guidance quickly.

According to the statement, “We will continue to ensure inmate safety and security, and the continuation of access to medical, dental and mental health services for the incarcerated population.

“CDCR/CCHCS are dedicated to the safety of everyone who lives in, works in, and visits our state prisons. We have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to address communicable disease outbreaks such as influenza, measles, mumps, norovirus, and varicella, as well as preparedness procedures to address a variety of medical emergencies and natural disasters.

“Public safety is our top priority, as is the health of our community. CDCR and CCHCS have worked diligently to make unprecedented changes to its operations to address the COVID-19 emergency and to protect all those who live and work in our institutions. We have successfully implemented an expedited transition to parole of 3,500 inmates to increase space within our institutions statewide. We continue to take additional precautions and actions as well, including suspending intake from county jails, reducing the density in dorms, verbal and temperature screening of all those entering state prisons, providing masks and hand sanitizer to all staff and the incarcerated population, and suspending in-person visiting and volunteering.”


Health care guidance

CDCR/CCHCS have protocols in place that follow recommendations for COVID-19 response in a correctional setting set forth by the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please see the Interim Guidance for Health Care and Public Health Providers for detailed protocols.


Population communications

To keep members of our population informed, CDCR has created and distributed fact sheets and posters in both English and Spanish that provide education on COVID-19 and precautions recommended by CDC. CDCR also began streaming CDC educational videos and messages from CDCR/CCHCS leadership and content from external stakeholders on the CDCR Division of Rehabilitative Programs inmate television network Health and Wellness channel.


Staff communications

CDCR has worked continuously to keep staff informed of the evolving situation, including creating internal and external webpages with health-related information from CDC and California Department of Public Health on how they can protect themselves against COVID-19. CDCR also provided staff with California Department of Human Resources updates on personnel and work-related questions specific to the COVID-19 issue.