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Have you ever considered what rules control California’s 120,000 inmates’ daily lives? Is there a book that specifies what conduct is or is not permitted? Meet the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) Department Operations Manual— the DOM. The 849-page DOM provides an extensive overview of the institutional infrastructure of the CDCR. And in the 302-page California Code of Regulations: Rules and Regulations of Adult Institutions, Programs, and Parole (Title 15, Division 3), you will find a detailed statement of the topics found in the DOM.

This post focuses on inmate management of known violent offenders and on the daily routine of most inmates in the general population of the state’s thirty-three prisons.

The Administration of Punishment

The DOM and Title 15 cover the general operations of prison administration. Each prison also has institutional orders that are specific to its needs.

On the topic of deadly force, DOM section 51020.7 states the following:

The CDCR recognizes the sanctity of human life. Therefore, deadly force will only be used when it is reasonably necessary to:

  • Defend the employee or other persons from an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury.

  • Prevent an escape from custody.

  • Stop acts such as riots or arson that constitute an immediate jeopardy to institutional security and, because of the magnitude, are likely to result in escapes, great bodily injury, or the death of other persons.

The DOM provides specific details for running the state’s prisons. For example, section 15000.9, Institution Operations, outlines the policy for serious situations such as the formation of sexually violent predator (SVP) units and security housing and administrative segregation (AD SEG) sections. AD SEG is used as time-out for an infraction such as refusing to get a haircut when told to do so. Security housing units (SHUs) are also known as solitary and are where high-profile inmates are sent for long durations of time for their own protection— think of the likes of Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan.

In a September 1, 2015, Los Angeles Times article, James Queally had a peek at the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison, near the Oregon border, and wrote that it is “home to members of powerful prison gangs, convicted murderers and inmates convicted of violence while incarcerated.” Queally’s description of what he witnessed comports with what veterans of SHUs have described to me:

The SHU is divided into concrete windowless cells, which have perforated doors that allow small streaks of light inside. The solitary units at Pelican Bay are designed to minimize human contact. Doors are opened and closed remotely by an officer in a central control unit out of sight of the inmates. The cells face a concrete wall so there is little natural light. Food is delivered through a slot in the door, and exercise is in a walled concrete pen the size of a large dog run.

Management of the General Population

Most California inmates don’t experience life in the AD SEG section or the SHU. My experience is that most inmates want to do their time and then get on with life. Most try to stay out of trouble, although there are ways to get entrapped in unforeseeable situations, such as when an aggressive inmate instigates a fight and both combatants are sent to AD SEG.

Correction regulations deal with significant life, liberty, security, safety, and health issues that impact daily living. Title 15 gets into the broad parameters for successfully completing one’s prison time. Here’s a sampling of the topics covered:

  • Article 1. Behavior, including obscenity, gambling, and unlawful influence.
  • Article 2. State-issued inmate clothing and linens, such as possession of this state property and neatness.
  • Article 4. Food services, including the Kosher and vegetarian diet programs.
  • Article 5. Personal cleanliness, such as personal hygiene, grooming standards, and tattoos.

Article Details

The following excerpts show just how detailed the regulations are:

  • Article 1, section 3008—Obscenity—provides that “inmates shall not openly or publicly display photographs, pictures, drawings, or other pictorial representations of persons engaged in sexual acts, actual or simulated, [or] masturbation.” Really?
  • Article 2, section 3030—Issuance and Possession of State Clothing and Linen—states that “each inmate shall be provided state clothing and linen pursuant to this section. Each item issued shall remain state property for which the inmate shall be accountable.” Of course.
  • Article 4, section 3050—Food Services—sets forth this: “Pregnant inmates shall receive two extra eight-ounce cartons of milk or a calcium supplement if lactose intolerant, two extra servings of fresh fruit, and two extra servings of fresh vegetables daily. A physician may order additional nutrients as necessary.” Sounds good, I think.
  • Article 5, section 3063—Tattoos—proclaims that “inmates shall not tattoo themselves or others and shall not permit tattoos to be placed on themselves. Inmates shall not remove or permit removal of tattoos from themselves or others.” See my post Et Tu Tattoo II for another perspective on tattoos.

This short outline doesn’t get into the details of all aspects of prison life. The CDCR tries to recognize and anticipate hundreds of human behaviors, including the formation of gangs and pronounced hate groups. A lot of important work waits for competent mental health professionals in the correctional system.

Prison impacts incarcerated people but also their families and friends. Relationships, jobs, education, and professions are disrupted. The DOM and Title 15 reflect an understanding of this socialization concept. But people need to know what rules apply to their incarcerated friends and family members, such as how to get permission for visitation.

An Aside

In his January 30, 2018, State of the Union Address, President Trump laid out his plans for prison reform—or did he? Here is his singular remark on the subject: “As America regains its [economic] strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”

Trump’s remarks apply only to the reentry of formerly incarcerated people. I believe he is oblivious to the conditions in which federal and state inmates live, conditions that perpetuate crime in this country. Trump is ignorant about the horrible state of affairs in which immigration detainees are warehoused in private prisons—no big surprise.

Your comments are always appreciated.

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