I am not sure this organization truly understands the significant achievements it has realized in the last few years. I also fully appreciate that some, both inside and out, may not even view these changes as achievements. These naysayers will focus on the indisputable “bad things” that happen both in the prisons and on parole. These “bad things” have been a part of incarceration in our state since a prison boat was docked in the San Francisco bay in the 1850s. It is even more remarkable that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has persevered throughout this remarkable period of reform of our criminal justice system while still managing the other daily problems we face.
Lt. Derrick “Bo” Taylor was murdered by unspeakable evil in the Las Vegas shooting. This is a profound loss to his family, co-workers and all of us at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
It is with a heavy heart that I write about three outstanding people who left us way too early. The magnitude of the loss impacts us all, but at the prisons or camps where these wonderful people worked, the pain is even more excruciating. What I have witnessed these last couple weeks is an organization that comes together to give as much comfort as possible to those who are hurting. Even under these tragic circumstances the leadership and compassion I have witnessed is simply astounding. Staff fighting through their personal pain to comfort the families of our fallen brothers and sister, and taking care of each other in a way that makes me proud to be part of such a great group of people.
There is so much positive momentum in our Department. The Governor, the Legislature, the public and even our critics are taking notice.
The stigma of mental illness is as pervasive in our prisons as it is in our communities. In the macho prison environment, where weakness equals vulnerability, those with mental illness are among the most stereotyped by other inmates and, unfortunately, by some staff as well.
On May 1, 2017, the first phase of the historic Proposition 57 regulations will begin. On that date, all inmates, with the exception of the condemned and those serving life without parole, will begin earning good-conduct credit. Allowing inmates to earn credits towards parole suitability or earlier release gives them hope where previously they had none. The responsibility for earning credits is solidly placed on the individual inmate. The remaining phases of Proposition 57 will be implemented this summer. While there are many good reasons to make these changes, the most important to me is the enhancement to the safety of our staff and the citizens of California.