California has overhauled its handling of prisoner appeals in response to numerous complaints, but key problems remain unaddressed, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General.
In a letter to then-CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, the IG said the appeals process lacks an “accountable means of verifying that appeals are made.”
The September 2011 report also said prison appeals coordinators “do not provide inmates with information necessary to resubmit a rejected appeal.” Also, “rapid implementation of the revised appeal process caused confusion,” the IG concluded.
The report also found that inmates do not trust correctional employees to appropriately safeguard their appeals.
One recommendation made by the IG is for the CDCR to create a direct method for appeals staff to collect inmate appeals, instead of correctional staff. San Quentin prison has responded by placing green inmate appeals box throughout the prison. Only appeals staff are able to unlock these boxes to retrieve inmate appeals.
The CDCR enacted emergency regulations in January 2011 to overhaul its appeal process, after the IG reported receiving 156 complaints in 2010 concerning “allegedly lost, stolen, misplaced, or unanswered appeals.”
That year, 148,896 appeals were submitted in California prisons, 75,146 of which were accepted and 73,750 of which were rejected, according to the IG. The volume was “at levels that could at any time overwhelm a system increasingly constrained by fiscal and resource limitations,” said the CDCR in its Initial Statement of Reasons for enacting emergency regulations to streamline the process.
The Sacramento Bee reported in August 2010 that Gene Cervantes, a former prison official who left corrections in 2007, said there is “a pattern of abuse by inmates and a pattern of abuse by staff.” Cervantes blamed it, in part, on lax staff training.
Cervantes said, “Some inmates make a practice of trying to bury officials in appeals,” reported the Bee, adding, “If both sides abuse the system, the party with the power tends to win.”
The report, CDCR’S Revised Inmate Appeals Process Leaves Key Problems Unaddressed, can be found at: www.oig.ca.gov.