After almost a year of modified programming and a massive CO-VID-19 outbreak, San Quentin has reopened limited in-person education and its Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (ISUDT) programming.
Under the current COVID-19 emergency protocols, students and substance abuse participants are scheduled to attend in-person classes with their assigned housing units. This is designed to keep them from mixing with other units and to protect them from the transmission of the Coronavirus. The programs were restarted in late March, according to a recent prison Memorandum.
“I feel safe since they restarted the program,” said Luis Gutierrez, an ISUDT participant who has been housed in San Quentin for three years. “And that’s not easy because I was a victim of COVID-19 last year.”
All participants must remain six feet apart, wear facial coverings (N95 mask) as well as all appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for everyone’s safety, said the Memorandum.
Education and vocation students will attend in-person classes twice a month. The days they are not scheduled will be for distance learning, in cell or dorm. ISUDT programming will be every day, but each housing unit will be scheduled into two-hour time slots to prevent mixing.
“The curriculum is helping me with my recovery,” said Gutierrez. “I’m building up my communication skills.
Not everyone is happy about the ISUDT program because housing units also run on a modified tier schedule, which can cause some participants to miss out on their yard and telephone time.
I think that I should have a choice about attending,” said Jonah Young-Gary, a youth offender and ISUDT participant, “because we spend a lot of time after in-person classes locked in the cell, and it leaves hardly no time for out of cell programming.”
Young-Gary said, however, he is learning valuable life skills while he attends the program.
ISUDT is a mandatory 90-day program with classes in Intensive Outpatient and Life Skills group programming. The programs are geared to give participants pro-social cognitive coping skills, in order to address substance abuse disorders.
“The structure presented here matches the current standard of care wherever you go once released,” said Jeffrey Campbell, ISUDT incarcerated group mentor.
ISUDT programming has undergone some major changes: Assignment to ISUDT will be based on clinical referrals or direct referrals, based on receipt of two guilty findings for an adjudicated drug/alcohol-related Rules Violation Report (RVR) or a drug overdose. Other assessments will be given for every SQ resident currently with 15-24 months from their projected release date or next Board of Parole hearing. The assessments are automatic, according to the Memorandum.
Also, the program is no longer in the prison gym but has been moved to the converted hobby shop in the education area.
The library will continue to process leisure reading books and requests for legal material. There is limited in-person access to individuals who have been designated Priority Legal Users (PLU). More in-person programming will be done in phases. Some self-help groups have started offering correspondence courses. A school schedule will be posted on the institutional channel.
Just like in society, the process of opening up programs must be done safely. Vaccinations have started and those of us who are incarcerated are managing the limited programming.
“We all should be proud of our work,” said Campbell.