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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation gets a new leader

Jeffrey Beard

Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections

Jeffrey Beard was nominated by Governor Brown to take over as Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Governor Jerry Brown nominated a new Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Wednesday. 

Jeffrey Beard led Pennsylvania’s prison system for nine years, after working his way up the ranks from correctional officer. Beard is familiar with California’s prisons, having served on a 2007 panel that examined the effectiveness of prison and parole programs for adult offenders in the state. He also consulted for CDCR on the litigation that resulted in a court-ordered overcrowding reduction in California’s prisons.

Beard replaces Matt Cate, who left the department in November to lead the California State Association of Counties.

In a statement, Brown said, "in the face of a plethora of Federal court decisions and the bold realignment enacted by the Legislature, Jeff Beard has arrived at the right time to take the next steps in returning California’s parole and correctional institutions to their former luster.”


Martin Hoshino to take over as acting secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Martin Hoshino


Martin Hoshino takes over CDCR on November 12.

On Monday morning, Martin Hoshino will assume temporary control of one of the world's largest prison systems, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

According to a bio released by CDCR, Hoshino started his career in the California State Controller's Office before moving into the corrections world. Most recently, Hoshino served as Undersecretary for Administration and Offender Services.

Hoshino takes over CDCR from Matthew Cate, and like Cate, he also spent time in the Inspector General's office, a prison oversight agency. 

Hoshino is moving in as the prison system's medical care system slowly emerges from federal receivership.

But the bigger job facing Hosino immediately is realignment, the process adopted more than a year ago that transfers low-level, non-violent offenders from the state prison system into county custody.


Report: Drug treatment has vast effect on reoffending

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

New figures from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show a slight decline in the rate released prisoners reoffend.

New figures from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show recidivism rates are down for the second year in a row. 

In a constant attempt to determine what leads to reoffending, CDCR tracks the rate at which released inmates commit new crimes or violate their parole conditions. Its findings are issued in the department's annual Outcome Evaluation Report.

The 2012 report tracked inmates released in 2007-2008 for three years after their release and found that 63.7 percent returned to prison within three years. That's a slight improvement from the 67.5 percent recidivism rate measured two years ago. 

In a statement, CDCR officials attributed the decline to a risk assessment tool implemented in 2007 that classifies offenders based on their need for rehabilitation and likeliness to reoffend. That change targeted some offenders for particular in-prison programs and also cut down on the number of parolees returning to prison for less serious parole violations.


California prison officials try high-tech approach to contraband cell phones

Mercer 14621

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At a news conference on August 31, 2010, then Attorney General Brown announced that law enforcement officers had arrested key members of the Nuestra Familia gang who had orchestrated crimes from inside prison using cell phones.

People stuff them in footballs and toss them over barbed wire fences into prison yards. They're smuggled in by prison visitors or correctional officers who sell them for hundreds of dollars behind bars.

However the cell phones get in, Jeffrey Callison with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said contraband cell phones in California prisons are a growing problem.

"The number of contraband cell phones confiscated has risen each year, almost exponentially to 15,000 just last year in California," Callison said.

And that's created some high-profile problems.

Inmates have been found to be keeping Facebook pages, an inmate in South Carolina called a hit on a correctional officer from prison, and Charles Manson, kept inside one of the most secure cells in California, has been caught with cell phones twice


State prison relaxes restrictions on Muslim inmates

North Kern State Prison


North Kern State Prison is in Delano, CA.

North Kern State Prison is relaxing its restrictions on activites for Muslim prisoners. About a dozen prisoners there had contacted the ACLU of Southern California, complaining they weren't allowed to pray in the yard, only in the chapel, which is not always open. They therefore couldn't pray five times a day, as required by their religion. Additionally, inmates said they were not generally allowed to wear their kufis—small, brimless head coverings—and weren't receiving their orders of prayer oil.

ACLU attorney Jessica Price says state prisons are required to make accommodations for inmates with sincere religious beliefs. At first, she thought the kufi restrictions might be a wider safety issue with headgear in general.

"But it turned out, when we further investigated, that the inmates were allowed to wear baseball caps, but they weren't allowed to wear the kufi," she said. "So I think that undercut any potential response that inmates might be hiding something under their headgear.