The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is proposing changes to milestone credits that would significantly reorganize rehabilitative programs and largely decrease credit-earning rates for incarcerated people throughout its adult institutions.
CDCR’s Regulation and Policy Management Branch released a Notice of Change to Regulations (NCR: 22-04) in March that is designed to “further the department’s commitment to providing evidence-based rehabilitative programming and treatment services to its incarcerated population,” said the document.
“Milestone Completion Credit courses are amended or adopted to provide eligible inmates greater opportunity to participate in programs and to earn MCC upon successful completion,” the NCR states. “Some programs have increased the amount of credit that an inmate can earn due to the rigorous coursework and course participation requirements.”
Examples include a reduction in milestone credits from three weeks to one week for completion of a 3-unit college course. High school–level course credits would be reduced by 50%. The Parole Board–required program, Guiding Rage Into Power, would have its credits reduced by 50%. Also, most Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are on the list for milestone credit reductions.
The NCR does include notable expansions of credit-earning opportunities through the Peer Literacy Mentor Program (PLMP), Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (ISUDT), and Cognitive Behavioral Interventions (CBI) Programs. It also proposes a process to allow continuation of some milestone programming through in-cell, independent study in the event of long-term lockdowns such as caused by COVID outbreaks.
“PLMP is intended to provide inmates who cannot participate in traditional education programs with literacy mentoring from inmate peers,” said the document. Participants earn milestone credits, and in order to help incentivize mentoring, completing the mentor certification would now earn 90 days of Education Merit Credits.
CDCR is codifying the Cognitive Behavioral Interventions (CBI) component of the ISUDT program. The ISUDT program was established to respond, in part, to a rising rate of drug overdose deaths in its institutions, which have been higher compared to other U.S. prisons and reached a record level of 30 overdose deaths per 100,000 inmates in 2017, according to the NCR.
The NCR includes a prioritization process for CBI based on inmates who have health care services referrals or have a criminogenic need identified by CDCR’s automated needs assessment tool.
The NCR states the proposed changes will “help to provide eligible inmates with incentives to participate in rehabilitative and educational programming, and better prepare inmates to find employment upon release, which may eventually reduce recidivism.”
A review of the proposed changes to the Milestone Completion Credit Schedule, which is the table that defines the credit earning rates for each Milestone program, reveals the programs slated for substantial reductions in credit rates.
Examples include a reduction in milestone credits from three weeks to one week for completion of a 3-unit college course High school-lelvel course credits would be reduced by 50%. The Parole Board–required program, Guiding Rage Into Power, would have its credits reduced by 50%. Also, most Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are on the list for milestone credit reductions.
The Educational Merit Credit for earning educational degrees is unchanged except for the addition of the PLMP mentor certification. The NCR does not affect Good Conduct Credit or Rehabilitation Achievement Credit.
In 2016, ballot initiative Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, was passed by voters. It amended the California Constitution to allow CDCR to reduce an inmate’s sentence through rehabilitative programing credit rewards. State law provides the Secretary of the CDCR with rule-making authority to make changes to the California Code of Regulations Title 15 and modify credits for approved rehabilitative or educational achievements.
The proposed NCR is subject to pending public comments. A complete copy is available online and in all CDCR prison legal libraries.
Any person may submit written comments about the proposed regulations by mail to: CDCR, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001, or by e-mail to RPMB@cdcr.ca.gov. All written comments must be received no later than April 26, 2022.