x
Breaking News
More () »

Violence at California state prisons to increase after policy change, advocates say

An April 11 memo sent to families of incarcerated people by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said rival groups will integrate.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After California prison officials reported a third inmate killing at one of its prisons within a week, advocates for incarcerated people said the violence behind bars is only going to get worse.

They're speaking out due to a housing policy change the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) laid out in an April 11 memo sent to inmates.

"In the past, CDCR was faced with violence in prisons, and there was concern over housing certain Security Threat Groups (STG) together in General Population (GP) settings. As a result, CDCR housed certain rival STGs separate from one another," the memo said. "However, that current policy does not align with CDCR's current mission."

With rival prison groups and gangs no longer being housed separately based solely on affiliation, Renee Aragon, founder of We Are Their Voices, said the safety of all incarcerated people are put further at risk, even those without affiliation to any groups.

"This is a guaranteed way that they won't come home, because (CDCR) know they've created a hostile, brutal environment with violence," she told ABC10. "They know what's going to happen because they created the environment."

Aragon lead a protest in front of Sacramento County Jail on July 11 with members of her advocacy group over the policy shift. The California-based group of just over 3,000 members is a hub for providing support and resources to loved ones of incarcerated people.

Aragon said she and other advocates won't stop protesting until the policy is reverted and integration of rival groups reversed.

To read the full memo, view the PDF below.

CDCR inmate integration policy

Most prisons do not house rival Security Threat Group factions together, said Division of Adult Institutions Director for CDCR Connie Gipson in a memo to prisoners, but the few prisons that have are successful.

One of the reasons cited by Gipson for the policy change was to expand opportunities for all General Population inmates to participate in rehabilitation programs.

Rather than group or gang affiliation being a deciding factor in an incarcerated person's housing assignment, only their demonstrated willingness to participate in programs will determine their housing.

'These individuals don't get along, they're going to fight (and) they're going to get denied parole. And then the worst case scenario is they're not going to make it home at all," Aragon said.

The CDCR oversees 34 adult prisons with a population of about 97,000 people, though Gov. Gavin Newsom could close down three of those prisons by 2025 to save money and accommodate the decrease in inmates.

However, Aragon said if inmates are receiving longer sentences and being denied parole for perceived violations behind bars, it could slow down the process of shutting down state prisons and cut their funding.

Fellow advocate Juanita Roina said families are not immediately notified when their loved ones get injured or end up in the hospital.

Another memo from Gipson dated April 11 said the integration of rival groups will be slow and methodical, and those caught participating in violence will be taken out of the General Population.

Incarcerated people who cooperate with the integration may be eligible to be housed in a lower security prison—those unwilling to comply may be housed at a higher security prison.

"This is consistent with CDCR’s move away from an affiliation-based system to a behavior-based system, affording all incarcerated people the opportunity to take advantage of every rehabilitative program, and enable them to engage in prosocial behavior within CDCR and in the community when they are released," CDCR spokesperson Dana Simas told ABC10.

However, Aragon and Roina's fear that their loved ones might not make it to their release date if they are forced to house with rival inmates.

"You don't have to put rival gangs or people that don't need to be together to get programming out to them so they can better themselves," Aragon said. "They want to come home, and you're gonna put them in a situation where they don't have a choice."

For the full CDCR statement view below.

CDCR is charged with providing a safe and secure environment for everyone who lives in, works in, and visits its institutions. The rehabilitation of individuals entrusted to the department’s care is also a priority. To that end, CDCR will house members of security threat groups (STGs) the same as everyone else – according to their individual case factors – and end the practice of clustering certain incarcerated people based upon their STG affiliation or membership, or based on where they lived before their incarceration. This is consistent with CDCR’s move away from an affiliation-based system to a behavior-based system, affording all incarcerated people the opportunity to take advantage of every rehabilitative program, and enable them to engage in prosocial behavior within CDCR and in the community when they are released.

A person’s behavior should and will determine where they are housed.

WATCH MORE: Biden: 'Justice has been delivered' after US drone strike kills al-Qaida leader

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out