De-Bug Letter to CDCR: End Non-Designated Yards

The recent policy change to merge yards in CDCR puts loved ones inside in danger

Editor's Note:

Recent implementation of non-designated yards in CDCR - meaning that yards for the general population and that of the special needs population have been combined - has led to violence and has put the emotional and physical wellbeing of loved ones inside in danger. We call on the CDCR to end non-designated yards.

October 30 ,2018

ATTN: Ralph Diaz
Acting Secretary for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento , California 95811
Phone: (916) 324-7308

Email: [email protected], Acting Secretary for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Email: [email protected], Director of the Division of Adult Institutions
Email: [email protected], Associate Director of female offender programs and services

Subject: End Non-Designated Yards in CDCR

Dear Secretary Diaz,

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has decided to eliminate its General Population (GP) and Special Needs Yards (SNY) and convert them into Non-Designated Yards. CDCR states that they are making this change because of an increase in gang violence on SNY yards. They also indicate that they are unable to provide duplicate mental health, medical, and rehabilitation programs for both GP and SNY yards. This policy change puts people in California prisons in grave physical danger. It also severely hinders their ability to participate in programming and rehabilitate. People in prison should not be endangered because CDCR cannot keep them safe or provide adequate services.

We write to express our concern about the implementation of Non-Designated Yards in CDCR. As members of Silicon Valley De-Bug and families with incarcerated loved ones, we speak from a position of personal experience when we voice our anxieties about this recent policy change. Since the implementation of Non-Designated Yards, many of our loved ones have been unable to better themselves as people--as fathers, brothers, and sons. Instead of concentrating on their education and programming, they are focused merely on staying safe and alive. The implementation of Non-Designated Yards has shifted their focus from rehabilitation to survival.

Many of our loved ones have taken full advantage of prison reform efforts, and specifically Proposition 57, with the goal of earning and/or maintaining family visits, contact visits, access to jobs, and milestone credits through educational and rehabilitation programs. Unfortunately, countless prisoners with non-violent convictions and no behavioral issues--people who are committed to returning home to their families and who were previously on Level 1 and 2 yards--have been stripped of their good efforts because of issues that have arisen due to the merging of yards. As a result, our incarcerated loved ones have been given rule violations, assigned to higher security level yards and/or solitary, and have regretfully lost family connections including family visits, contact visits, and in many cases phone calls. They are being housed in more restrictive settings and relocated to prisons that are further away from their families.

In addition to being concerned about our loved one’s ability to successfully program and return home, we are also extremely worried about their safety. And for good reason. Many of our incarcerated loved ones have been hospitalized because of injuries that resulted from the merging of yards.

Finally, the merging of yards has unraveled a whole new set of issues. In particular, many people in prison have stopped eating CDCR issued meals because they cannot trust who is preparing those meals now that GP and SNY people are on the same yard. For example, our loved ones have reported to us that SNY kitchen workers have put feces and urine in their food. Being fearful that one’s food is contaminated puts their emotional and physical wellbeing in danger.

Despite being aware of the problems that have occurred when Level 1 and 2 yards are merged, CDCR still plans to merge GP and SNY on Level 3 and 4 yards, as well. When we express concern about the merging of Level 3 and 4 yards, CDCR claims that this is only a problem on Level 1 and 2 yards. But as Jalissa V., the 15-year-old daughter of an incarcerated father states, “If this is not happening on Level 4 yards, then why is my dad not eating?” I thought CDCR was supposed to help rehabilitate my father and help him come home.”

People in GP should not be punished because of the violence that has occurred on SNY yards. People in GP yards have made sincere attempts to peacefully coexist. If there are problems with violence on SNY yards, then those issues should be dealt with there. The solution is not to spread these problems to all yards, both GP and SNY.

Silicon Valley De-Bug was a co-author of Proposition 57. As Silicon Valley De-Bug families of incarcerated loved ones currently in CDCR, we did not co-author or vote for Proposition 57 to be implemented in this manner. We believe that all prisoners regardless of their security level or classification should be given the opportunity to be safe, rehabilitate, and return home to their families. We demand better from CDCR and an END to Non-Designated Yards.

Thank you,

On behalf of Silicon Valley De-Bug families of incarcerated loved ones currently housed in CDCR,

Benee Vejar
Community Organizer
Silicon Valley De-Bug
Jose Valle
Community Organizer
Silicon Valley De-Bug

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