(Editor’s note: This 1967-68 departmental Progress Report outlined numerous shifts in managing the state’s prison system. From a new family visiting program to challenges in filling conservation camps, the full report is lengthy. The following are highlights.)
This report deals with major developments in the operation of the California Department of Corrections during 1967 and 1968. At the end of this period, the department was responsible for the control, treatment and supervision of some 43,000 adult prison inmates, parolees and civilly committed narcotics addicts.
The department operated 13 major correctional institutions, up to 34 small conservation camps, 50 local parole offices, three halfway houses, parole outpatient psychiatric clinics, an anti-narcotic testing clinic and other programs. It employed nearly 7,000 persons representing a wide range of job specialties. The department operations budget was $89.9 million in 1968-69.
Departmental officials encountered problems in screening out enough minimum-security inmates to fill the state’s 34 conservation camps. The camps continued to be the state’s main source of manpower for fire and flood fighting and for year-round conservation work.
A family visiting program was started at the suggestion of Governor Reagan in which the wives, children and parents may visit eligible inmates for up to two days in privacy.
The department operated 13 large institutions … and 34 conservation camps. The population of institutions and camps increased by about 1,000 during the two-year period, exceeding 28,000 for the first time. By the end of 1968, the institution population had increased to 28,460.
The population gain intensified … and heightened the need for new institution construction.
A gradual change in the offense background of the prison population became increasingly evident during the period.
The percentage of non-violent property offenders in prison has gone down, leaving a larger proportion of inmates who have committed crimes which by law, tradition and perhaps public expectation carry longer prison terms.
To illustrate, by the end of 1968 robbers accounted for 25.5 percent (5,713 inmates) of the male inmate population, as compared to only 20.1 percent (3,941 inmates) at the end of 1961.
The population percentage was also higher in 1968 from other violent crime categories – homicide up from 6.9 percent to 9.5 percent, assault up from 3.4 percent to 6.1 percent and rape up from 2.8 percent to 3.2 percent.
This change in the characteristics of the male prison population may have influenced the actions of the paroling authority. During the report period, the number of men released from prison by parole or by discharge declined from 7,193 in 1966 to 6,450 in 1968.
California’s prison programs have for many years emphasized the rehabilitation or correction of offenders. To this end, the Legislature and a succession of state administrations have consistently supported a wide range of prison training, education, counseling, and work-experience programs.
The day-to-day operation of these long established programs often escapes public recognition.
Academic Education: The institutions offer a complete program of academic education from remedial courses through college correspondence. About 7,500 inmates are enrolled in some type of academic course at any given time. Each year some 1,400 inmates earn elementary school certificates and another 800 are awarded high school diplomas. About 175 state accredited teachers are employed in correctional institutions, most of them hired via contracts with local school districts.
Vocational Training: The typical prison inmate in California does not have a trade or a record of solid work experience. Too many lack basic job skills by which to earn a decent living. Californians have authorized an extensive job training program in the state’s prisons as a means of attacking this problem. Nearly 4,000 inmates are enrolled in 45 different vocational training courses in the institutions. The long list of occupations in which instruction is offered includes auto and aircraft mechanics, masonry, cooking, landscaping, radio and television repair, dry cleaning, baking, welding, drafting, plastering, refrigeration, janitorial services and many others.
California operates the nation’s most extensive system of correctional conservation camps, an outgrowth of the former “honor camp” program which dates back to 1915. About 2,500 inmates are housed in 34 permanent and seasonal 80-man camps which are located throughout the state.
During 1968, camp inmates put in seven million man-hours in fire fighting and conservation work, a forest preservation and protection effort which the taxpayers could not otherwise afford.
Family Visiting: At the direct suggestion of Governor Reagan, a pilot conjugal visiting program started in 1968 at California Correctional Institution, Tehachapi. In this program, wives, children and parents are allowed to visit in private for up to two days with inmates who are nearing release. Two apartments, previously staff quarters, are used in the program. Cooking and light housekeeping items are provided and visitors may bring in food. The purpose of the program is to give families a chance to become reacquainted and to get an earlier start on the often difficult adjustment which is necessary following an inmate’s release from prison. … More experience and time will be required for evaluation of any other benefits.
Director of Corrections R.K. Procunier was appointed to that post by Governor Reagan in May 1967. Procunier is a veteran California corrections worker who began his career more than 20 years ago as an officer at California Institution for Men. Prior to his appointment as director, he was superintendent at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. Other departmental officials at the end of 1968 were Chief Deputy Director L.M. Stutsman, Parole and Community Services Deputy Director Milton Burdman, Institutions Deputy Director Robert Ecklund and Program & Staff Services Deputy Director Lawrence E. Wilson.