Monday, August 31, 2015

San Quentin State Prison Legionnaires’ Disease Case Update

SAN QUENTIN – Administrators at San Quentin State Prison (SQ) continue to restore services to inmates as the institution deals with a number of confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease. Out-of-cell time for inmates will resume; inmate movement has been limited since August 27 to help facilitate an investigation into an outbreak of the disease.

All inmate services such as the law library and dental appointments have resumed as well. 

Inmates are still receiving boxed meals and taking showers in portable shower units to avoid exposure to steam or mist that could contain the Legionella bacteria. 

Secondary water sources such as bottled water and water tanks will continue to be used for consumption until it is deemed safe to resume normal water use.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It's caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila carried via aerosolized water, such as steam, mist and moisture. It is not transmitted from person to person and has a normal incubation period from two to 10 days after exposure. 

As of Aug. 31, there are six confirmed cases of inmates with Legionnaires’ disease. Five inmates are in outside area hospitals being treated for pneumonia-like symptoms but none are confirmed to have Legionnaires’ disease. 

There are 73 inmates under observation for respiratory illness but have not been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease and are being treated at SQ’s on-site medical unit. 

Staff at SQ have been sent educational material to inform them of what they should do if they begin to display symptoms. There have not been any confirmed cases of staff with Legionnaires’ disease.

Officials have been in communication with the Men’s Advisory Council, a representative group of inmates who advise and communicate with the Warden and other staff on matters of interest and concern to the inmate general population. 

SQ is a reception center for new inmates to the California prison system. Intake has been temporarily halted since Aug. 27 as the investigation continues. 

All inmate visiting and volunteer programs have also been halted as the investigation is ongoing. 

SQ houses approximately 3,700 inmates, including low-, medium-, and maximum-custody inmates as well as condemned inmates. The prison also has approximately 1,800 employees. 

For media inquiries, please contact Dana Simas at (916) 445-4950. For community inquiries, please call Albert Rivas at (916) 445-4950.

San Quentin State Prison Legionnaires' Disease Case Update

SAN QUENTIN – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, along with the Marin County Public Health Department and California Correctional Health Care Services, are continuing the investigation of the source of Legionnaires’ disease at San Quentin State Prison (SQ).
 
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia. It's caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila found in both potable and non-potable water systems. The illness is carried via aerosolized water, such as steam, mist and moisture. It is not transmitted from person to person and has a normal incubation period from two to 10 days after exposure.
 
On Aug. 26, a SQ inmate was transported to an outside hospital where he was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.
 
As of Sunday, there are six confirmed cases with five inmates currently at outside hospitals. The additional diagnoses are the result of tests conducted over the last few days after the exposure.
 
In addition, approximately 51 inmates are currently under observation for respiratory illness but have not been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. All unconfirmed cases are being treated at SQ’s on-site medical unit.
 
To eliminate the spread of the bacteria, SQ has limited water use at the prison.
 
After consulting with local, state and national public-health experts familiar with the transmission of Legionnaires’, the prison resumed the use of plumbed toilets inside the facility’s housing units. Secondary water sources such as bottled water and water tanks will continue to be used for consumption until it is deemed safe to resume normal water use.
 
SQ officials have been in communication with the Men’s Advisory Council, a representative group of inmates who advise and communicate with the Warden and other staff on matters of interest and concern to the inmate general population.
 
Inmates are currently being served boxed meals to avoid exposure to steam and mist during cooking operations.
 
Portable shower units arrived at the prison on Saturday. SQ administrators and custody staff are coordinating to provide all inmates with showers and hope to resume out-of-cell activity as soon as possible. 
 
SQ is a reception center for new inmates to the California prison system. Intake has been temporarily halted as the investigation continues.
 
All inmate visiting and volunteer programs have also been halted as the investigation is ongoing.
 
SQ receives its water supply from the Marin County Municipal Water District and stores the water in a three-million gallon tank on-site.
 
SQ houses approximately 3,700 inmates, including low-, medium-, and maximum-custody inmates as well as condemned inmates. The prison also has approximately 1,800 employees.
 
For media inquiries, please contact Dana Simas at (916) 628-6033.
For community inquiries, please call Albert Rivas at (916) 445-4950.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

On the line: Inmate crews prep for busy fire season



Firefighters prove they’re ready at Ishi Preparedness Exercises

By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR Public Information Officer
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer
Video by David Novick, CDCR Video Specialist
 
The firefighters were sitting on the ground, sweaty, dirty and tired. They had just hiked 4.2 miles along a rugged trail, the sun beating down on them as they trudged along. Each man was dressed head to toe in flame-retardant gear, lugging heavy tools and drinking water. The break was welcome, but short, and after 10 minutes they were gearing up once more, preparing for the grueling work of clearing brush for another hour.
They were all up to the challenge, and eager to put their training to the test.

Meet the inmate firefighters of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), men and women selected to join CAL FIRE and local crews in battling wildfires throughout the state. CDCR’s Conservation Camps program started in 1946 with the opening of Rainbow Camp in Fallbrook, and today more than 4,000 inmate firefighters work from 42 adult camps and one camp for juvenile offenders throughout the state.
“I’ve learned a lot – I’ve learned skills here I can use when I get out,” said Mike Jones, a firefighter at Ishi Conservation Camp #18 in Tehama County. “It teaches you accountability. You get with your crew and you learn how to work together, and all different races come together and it doesn’t matter.”
Because inmate fire crews work in communities, inmates must meet certain criteria to be eligible. This includes not being convicted of any sexual or arson offenses, no escape history and no life sentence. Inmates accepted into the program undergo intense physical fitness and firefighter training, provided by CAL FIRE, to prepare them for their work conditions.

Each year, CAL FIRE holds the annual Preparedness Exercises at Ishi Camp, where nearly 50 inmate fire crews undergo drills on safety, physical conditioning and firefighting knowledge. Throughout the day, crews are tested on their knowledge of tools, ability to deploy emergency shelters and their physical ability, culminating in the 4.2-mile hike and brush-clearing exercise.
The crews are also tested on safety, from wearing the appropriate gear to packing enough drinking water. While the crews are expected to complete the hike within 75 minutes, they must also take care not to over-exert themselves.
“You can’t do the hike too quickly, because then you get penalized,” explained CDCR Lt. Dan Billeci, who works at Trinity River Conservation Camp #3 in Lewiston. “If you hike it too fast, you’re going to be exhausted by the time it’s time to start cutting line for the fire. So there has to be a happy medium.”

During a fire, inmate crews are primarily tasked with clearing brush to stop the flames from spreading. Crews use picks, shovels, axes and chainsaws to tear intensely flammable brush down to bare mineral soil, fighting the clock as flames spread.

“Without these guys out there cutting that line, a lot of fires would get a lot bigger,” observed CAL FIRE Capt. Tim Rader. “They go into areas that nobody else wants to go into, or that dozers are not able to get into. Without them, these fires would not stop.”

Rader, who has been working with inmate crews for six years, said when the men and women first arrive at camp, it’s often the first time they’ve ever seen the woods. Training begins with getting crews acclimated to being outdoors and exercising, beginning with short hikes and working up to longer treks.

In the classroom, inmate firefighters learn the terminology of the trade, how to stay safe on the job, first aid, map reading and fire behavior, followed by 29 hours of field training in tools, fire shelters, mop-up and fitness. Inmate firefighters are paid for their work, and earn extra credit for time served when on the fire line.

“It’s very helpful to have the crews there assisting us,” said Fire Prevention Specialist Cheryl Buliavac. “The manpower that they bring is unbelievable — the hard work, just having them there to help with cutting a hand line, getting the brush clear so the firefighters can get the hose in.
“The crews are really motivated,” Buliavac added. “They take a lot of pride in their work.”

When not fighting fires, inmate fire crews participate in community service and conservation projects such as clearing fire breaks, restoring historical structures, park maintenance, sand- bagging and flood protection and clearing fallen trees and debris. This work, combined with manpower on the fire lines, saves California taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

“They’re the backbone of our department when we get to our large incidents, because as the incidents grow it takes a huge workforce,” said Dave Russell, CAL FIRE Division Chief at Ishi Camp.

Robert Shelton, a firefighter at Intermountain Conservation Camp #22 in Lassen County, said that for him, fighting fires and doing service projects is a chance to give back.

“I’ve been a liability for a lot of years, and it finally feels good to give something back to the community and improve myself,” he said.

Shelton commented on the brotherhood of camp, where racial and social backgrounds fall away. Living and working together, the firefighters become a family of sorts, relying on one another to get the job done.

“You get to work together as a team, and it’s no longer black, white or Mexican,” he said. “It’s all one unity. You’re just one orange caterpillar and you have to work together to get up the mountain.”

Female inmates join firefighting corps

By Bill Sessa, CDCR Public Information Officer
As summer heat and a historic drought have set the stage for what could be a record year for wild land fires in California, a dozen female inmates from the California Institution for Women are among the most recent to step up to that flame-fighting challenge.
The newest of CDCR’s wild land firefighters were cheered on by future graduates and their trainers from CALFIRE at “Camp New Beginnings” on the grounds of CIW as they received their certificates in June documenting that they had completed the same grueling training program as the male inmates who make up the majority of the state’s fire crews.
It may be a surprise to some people that there are female firefighters, since most of the media’s coverage of forest fires highlights the work of male inmates. But females have worked on the fire lines since 1983, when the Rainbow Camp housed the first all-female crews. Currently, as many as 300 females work on the fire lines each summer, comprising slightly less than 10 percent of the nearly 4,000 inmates housed in the state’s 43 fire camps. Following their graduation at CIW, the newly minted firefighters were assigned to one of three camps that house females in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.
When it comes to battling flames that can rise 30 or 40 feet tall, the work is gender neutral. Armed with hand tools, such as chain saws and shovels, female fire crews work in the same rugged terrain as their male counterparts, cutting containment lines to slow the spread of large forest fires. When they are not on the fire lines, female crews spend their time working on the same fire prevention project, such as brush clearing, as their male counterparts.
Crews from the Rainbow Conservation Camp, for example, recently spent weeks clearing a large stand of Torrey Pines infested with beetles, which increases the chances they would be volatile fuel in a fire.  It was a job that needed a lot more than a weed-whacker.  A CALFIRE captain supervising the crews at the time noted the trees “weigh tons” so removing them was an industrial-sized project.
“The trees we had to take out are big and thick and take a long time to die,” noted Stephen Scatolini, a restoration specialist for California’s state parks.
Inmate Patricia Meyers said she was “excited” for her new assignment and “proud of what I’m doing,” a sentiment undoubtedly shared by her classmates, eager to join the veterans in their assigned camps.
Media inquiries related to the firefighting corps may phoned Bill Sessa, Public Information Officer at (916) 445-4950. For community inquiries or county cooperative partnership information, please call Albert Rivas, Deputy Chief, Office of External Affairs at (916) 224-8137.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

CDCR Community Resources Managers delve into week of training


Community Resource Managers from across the state
converged on Sacramento for training and information sharing.

In June, the Division of Adult Institutions, Office of Policy Standardization, hosted a week-long training for the Community Resources Managers (CRMs) from across the state.

The 35 CRMs are responsible for developing inmate programs, overseeing religious and faith services and staff, and promoting open communication with community leaders, community organizations, and volunteers in their respective institution. This opportunity gave them a chance to meet their peers, strategize in the areas of regional networking development, as well as discuss issues for novice and veteran CRMs.

Training included increasing community outreach, developing and implementing programs, and administrative management; as well as receiving lectures on American Correctional Association standards, grant opportunities, organizational skills, and stress management.

Keynote speakers Undersecretary Scott Kernan and Deputy Director Kathleen Allison addressed the managers on the value of rehabilitative programming for inmates.

Various department subject matter experts representing Office of Labor Relations, Office of Legal Affairs, Budgets Management Branch, Office of Personnel Services, Accounting Services Branch, Office of Appeals, Office of Public and Employee Communication, EIS Strategic Offender Management Systems, Regulation and Policy Management Branch and Office of Appeals, all provided valuable insight.

CRMs were also afforded resources and materials provided by Chief Services Officer Karen Baker, from California Volunteers, and Reentry Specialists from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and California Department of Veterans Affairs.