Legislative Analyst's Office
February 22, 1995

Department of Corrections (5240)

Administrative Issues

No Basis for Inflation Adjustment

We recommend deletion of a proposed inflation adjustment for the cost of operating expenses and equipment, resulting in a General Fund savings of $30.5 million, because we find no analytical basis for granting an adjustment to the CDC that has been denied other state agencies.

The Governor's Budget for 1995-96 proposes a General Fund increase of $30.5 million to offset the effects of inflation on the department's costs of general operating expenses and equipment. The CDC is the only department proposed to receive a General Fund increase to compensate for the effects of inflation. The increase is based on the assumption that inflation during 1995-96, as reflected in the California Consumer Price Index (CCPI), will raise prices by 3.5 percent.

Given the state's serious fiscal constraints, we can find no analytical basis for granting such an inflation adjustment to the CDC at a time when other departments and agencies must forego similar increases. Thus, we recommend that the augmentation be deleted.

Should the Legislature decide to grant the inflation adjustment to the CDC, however, our review indicates that the proposed price increase is too high. Specifically, prices are projected to increase about 3 percent in 1995-96, not 3.5 percent as stated by the CDC. If the smaller percentage figure were used, the CDC price increase would cost $4.4 million less.

Efforts to Implement Three Strikes Not Detailed in Spending Plan

We withhold recommendation on $10 million from the General Fund for implementation of the Three Strikes and You're Out law, pending receipt of updated inmate population projections at the time of the May Revision, and additional information about how the money would be used.

Three-Part Plan for Three Strikes. Last year, in response to the enactment of the Three Strikes legislation (Ch 12/94, AB 971, Jones), the administration requested and received a three-part, $10 million General Fund augmentation in the 1994 Budget Act to help the CDC prepare to implement the new law. The 1995-96 Governor's Budget includes the $10 million in the CDC's permanent funding base.

Last year, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the $10 million was needed because of projections that the increased sentences called for under the Three Strikes law would double the state prison population within six to seven years. The DOF advised that such growth would present a myriad of policy, management, and logistical issues which the department must begin to address immediately. Three categories of expenditures were proposed to address these issues:

The CDC has begun to implement the new law. The number of cadets attending the McGee academy is slated to increase from 2,200 to 3,400 in the current year and to 3,900 in 1995-96. A Feasibility Study Report (FSR) outlining the computer project has been approved by the Office of Information Technology (OIT). The department has also drafted an Emergency Bed Program to provide space for about 20,000 additional inmates. (We discuss the program in greater detail in the Capital Outlay section of this Analysis.)

No Specific Plan for Budget Year. The CDC was unable to provide information as to how much of the $10 million provided for Three Strikes implementation will actually be spent by the end of the current year. It appears that a considerable portion of the funds will go unused. Many of the newly established positions--including the entire 12-person Three Strikes Planning Branch--remained vacant as of February 1995 because of civil service hiring procedures and other delaying factors.

In addition, the Governor's Budget also does not specify what the CDC plans to accomplish with the $10 million during 1995-96. CDC officials indicate that they may examine the present system of classifying inmates for assignment to prisons, and may also study a large-scale reorganization of the department into regional units.

Some of the costs that would be permanently added to the CDC's funding base under the budget plan may actually be one-time expenditures which should eventually be discontinued upon their completion. For example, the CDC's FSR indicates that the project to modify computer programs to calculate inmate release dates will be largely completed by January 1, 1996, except for a follow-up evaluation, which is to be completed by January 1, 1997. However, such an offset is not yet reflected in the Governor's Budget.

Shortfall in Inmate Projections. As discussed previously in this analysis, the number of offenders being committed to state prison has fallen short of the CDC's projections, at least in the short term. The changing situation calls into question whether the CDC will actually need to hire thousands of correctional officers in the short-term, as was to be accomplished with the $7.2 million of the augmentation. Notably, the 1995-96 Governor's Budget proposes to add fewer new personnel to the CDC than are to be added in the current year.

Should the lull in inmate population growth persist, it could provide the CDC sufficient time to steadily build up its force of correctional officers without having to spend additional funds to increase its personnel and training capacity.

Accordingly, we withhold recommendation on the $10 million proposed for Three Strikes implementation during 1995-96, pending receipt of updated inmate population projections at the time of the May Revision, and additional information about what projects would be accomplished with the budget-year augmentation.

Proposed Implementation of Federal Law Raises Questions

We withhold recommendation on $1 million and 10.8 positions requested to implement the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), pending a report at budget hearings from the CDC and the Department of Finance that clarifies how the proposed funding would be used, and the overall approach that the state plans to take regarding implementation of the ADA. The budget requests $1 million from the General Fund and 10.8 positions to implement requirements of the federal ADA within the CDC.

Background. The ADA, a major civil rights statute that took effect in 1992, prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The measure requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled persons in employment and in the provision of services to persons who come into contact with the employer.

The CDC believes that the fiscal impact of the ADA on the department could be very large because no qualified individuals--not only staff but also inmates and visitors--may be excluded from participation in or denied the services, programs, or activities provided by the department. The CDC advises that the impact of the ADA on law enforcement agencies is especially difficult and unclear.

The CDC advises that it has begun to implement only a few ADA requirements. In addition, the CDC advises that several lawsuits have been filed against the department charging it with violations of the ADA, including one class action lawsuit on behalf of inmates.

Although we acknowledge that the implementation of the ADA will have a workload impact on the CDC, we have three concerns about the proposal.

Budget Proposal is Not Clear. First, we found a number of internal inconsistencies in the department's request. For example, the proposed $1 million appears to be based on the department adding 10.8 Associate Government Program Analyst (AGPA) positions at a cost of $595,000, plus $405,000 for consulting services. However, other portions of the request indicate that the funds will be used to support a different staffing complement that also includes a staff services manager, correctional counselors, and a staff attorney. The supporting documents also appear to call for a much higher level of activity related to ADA implementation than the proposal would support. Given these inconsistencies, we believe that the CDC should clarify how the funds will actually be used and whether the funding addresses the problems identified.

Statewide Implications Unclear. The proposal raised a number of questions regarding the impact of the ADA upon other state agencies (especially other law enforcement agencies, such as the Youth Authority and Department of Justice) and the overall approach that the state proposes to take regarding implementation. No other major state law enforcement agency has proposed additional funding for implementation of the ADA, and very few non-law enforcement agencies have done so. Given that the measure, especially its employment provisions, could have a fiscal effect on all state agencies, we believe that the administration needs to explain its overall approach to implementation. The administration should indicate how it will prioritize requests for ADA compliance projects and its intended timetable for statewide compliance with the ADA.

Analyst's Recommendation. For the reasons state above, we withhold recommendation on the request, pending a report at the time of budget hearings from the CDC and the DOF, that clarifies the following: (1) how the proposed funding would be used and how it would meet the specific requirements imposed by the ADA upon the CDC; and (2) the overall approach that the administration plans to take regarding implementation of the ADA, including the timetable for compliance, an estimate of the cost to the state, and the method of prioritizing compliance projects. Given that several state agencies are or should be involved in the implementation of the ADA, we suggest that the CDC and DOF also seek advice from the Departments of Rehabilitation, Personnel Administration, and General Services, as well as from other state law enforcement agencies.

The Civil Addict Program: An Update

We recommend that the CDC report to the Legislature, prior to budget hearings, on the status of its current efforts to enhance the Civil Addict Program, its plans for use of the $1 million augmentation in 1995-96, its plans and goals for future enhancements, and its plans for evaluation of the impacts of the enhancements on program outcomes.

The Civil Addict Program (CAP) provides substance abuse rehabilitation for persons who are identified by the court as narcotic addicts. In recent years a number of concerns have been raised about the success of the program. In the Analysis of the 1993-94 Budget Bill, we concluded that the program has failed to achieve its goals and recommended that it be abolished. Recognizing the problems associated with the program, the Legislature appropriated $1 million in the 1994 Budget Act to enhance the services provided by the program. The 1995 Budget Bill continues that funding.

Background. The CAP was first established by the Legislature in 1961 and modified over the years for the purpose of providing rehabilitative treatment for drug offenders who are addicted or in danger of becoming addicted to narcotics. The program accepts both male and female offenders. Currently, there are about 4,000 civil addicts in state prison (primarily at the California Rehabilitation Center [CRC] at Norco), and about 4,100 additional civil addicts under supervision in the community.

Individuals must satisfy a rigorous set of criteria before being committed to the program by the court. Because the use of drugs alone does not constitute a drug addiction, not all drug offenders are eligible for commitment to the program. In most cases, commitment to the program is in lieu of prosecution for a criminal offense. During the first phase of the program, all civil addicts are required to complete a one-month long, 120-hour educational program. It is the intent of the Legislature that this treatment program not be considered punitive.

Concerns Regarding the Lack of Sufficient Treatment Provided by the Program. Over the years, the CDC has redirected resources and changed priorities in such a way that the program's original treatment level has been substantially diluted. In our 1993 review, we found that, with the exception of the original 120-hour educational program, the CDC does not provide any additional programming specifically designed or targeted for substance abuse treatment, and, even then, only half of the 120 hours were truly dedicated to substance abuse education; the other hours simply consisted of physical exercise.

RAND Corporation Report Confirms Problems. The administration has indicated previously that it had substantial concerns as well, prompting the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency to contract with the RAND Corporation for a detailed analysis of the program. The RAND report, which was released in June 1994, confirmed many of the earlier criticisms of the program, calling it clearly inadequate. Among a number of findings, RAND determined that the program meets few of the criteria required for an effective prison drug treatment program. Although the program was originally based on a therapeutic community model of drug treatment, the report found that the program has been so diluted that it was no longer based on any particular model. Many experts, RAND found, no longer believed that it could even be rightfully called a treatment program. The report also noted that participants interviewed by RAND indicated that drugs are easily available within the institution.

RAND recommended that if the CDC wants to reinstate a model civil-addict program, it should undertake the following: (1) develop a theoretical or conceptual framework for the program; (2) establish stronger leadership and accountability for the performance of the program; and (3) conduct a regular evaluation of the program, particularly as to the impact of changes in the operation, as well as to the cost implications of treatment of civil addicts versus regular felon commitments to the CDC.

What is the Status of the Program Enhancements? The CDC issued a report that specifies a number of goals for improving to the program and created a CAP Enhancement Committee to monitor the progress of implementing the improvements. According to documents provided by the CDC, the committee has established short-term goals for program enhancements and plans for the expenditure of the $1 million augmentation. These include:

Given the history of problems with the program, and the past redirection of resources away from the program, we believe that it is important for the Legislature to carefully monitor the department's progress. For this reason, we recommend that the CDC report to the Legislature, prior to budget hearings, on the status of its current enhancement efforts, its plans for use of the $1 million augmentation in 1995-96, its plans and goals for future enhancements, and its plans for evaluation of the impacts of the enhancements on program outcomes.

Assuring Effective Implementation of the Correctional Management Information System

We recommend that the department advise the Legislature, at the time of budget hearings, on the status of its efforts to award a contract to a consultant to assure the quality of the initial phase of the Correctional Management Information System, and the specific role the consultant will perform.

The budget includes $12.7 million from the General Fund to continue the CDC's primary information technology (IT) project--the Correctional Management Information System (CMIS). Initiated in 1992, the CMIS is intended to provide the department a single automated system that would maintain comprehensive information about offenders and support various departmental activities.

Funds proposed in the budget will be allocated to the first of five planned stages for this new system, as follows:

Automating Offender Information. Currently, the majority of an offender's prison record is maintained in a paper file known as the Central File (C-File). The C-File is normally stored at the institution where the offender is incarcerated. When a prisoner is transferred manually from one institution to another, the inmate's C-File has to be processed and transferred through as many as four different sections within the prison, requiring a significant amount of time. These files are critical for making management decisions such as offender releases or transfers, disciplinary activities, or job assignments. Any error in these types of decisions could place both staff and inmates in physical danger. Because there is only one C-File for an inmate, problems occur when more than one staff member needs the file or when the file is missing.

Although the CDC currently has an automated data system for tracking offender information, this system is outdated and cannot be expanded to meet the growing inmate population. The current system is also inefficient since it is unable to record and track the type of information necessary for the department to carry out its responsibilities.

CMIS Not Unlike Other Major IT Projects. Although the CMIS project is unique to the department, it is not unlike most other major IT projects in terms of the challenge inherent in the effort to implement a major automation system. Like many other state projects, CMIS has had some false starts, has experienced cost increases and schedule delays, and benefit estimates have been recalculated. Figure 21 displays significant changes in the CMIS project since its inception.

Assuring a Quality Product. In our June 1994 report Information Technology: An Important Tool For a More Effective Government, we discussed problems state agencies face when trying to implement IT solutions, and recommended several approaches which we believe can help to assure a successful project. One approach is to contract for expert assistance when departmental technical staff do not have the specialized skills to meet a specific need. In that regard, the department has allocated $1.5 million of CMIS project funds to pay for the services of a consultant hired to perform specified tasks to assure the quality of the products delivered by the primary vendor (selected in December 1994) to develop Phase I of the CMIS. This concept--also known as independent verification and validation--has been employed by the federal government to assure the success of complex technology projects.

Will CMIS be a Model? Performing independent verification and validation calls for a specialized set of skills which are employed continually throughout the project development cycle to ensure that any problems are identified, assessed and resolved. Although some vendors who implement major IT projects may possess such skills, it is more desirable to have this task performed by an independent consultant, as history has shown that both primary contractors and state managers have in many instances made decisions which have effectively ignored fundamental project problems. Therefore, we believe that the department's current effort to acquire an independent quality assurance consultant is a step in the right direction. Also, we believe that this approach could serve as a model for several other major state IT projects which are currently experiencing difficulties, as noted in other sections of this Analysis.

The CDC plans to award the contract for the quality assurance contractor on February 28, 1995, which is significant because the primary contractor is scheduled to begin work on March 1. Given the importance of the CMIS project, and the potential that quality assurance consultants can play with regard to other state IT projects, we recommend that the department advise the Legislature, at the time of budget hearings, as to the status of its effort to hire a quality assurance contractor, and the specific role the contractor will play to help assure the success of the CMIS project.

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