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California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Several Poor Administrative Practices Have Hindered Reductions in Recidivism and Denied Inmates Access to In‑Prison Rehabilitation Programs

Report Number: 2018-113

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Corrections' Implementation of Certain Rehabilitation Programs Has Not Resulted in Demonstrable Reductions in Recidivism

Key Points:

Corrections' CBT Rehabilitation Programs Do Not Appear to Have Reduced Recidivism

Because of the financial cost and societal impact of a recidivating inmate, the State has a vested interest in ensuring that rehabilitation programs are meeting their primary goal of reducing recidivism, particularly in light of the fact that the State has significantly increased its investment in these programs over the past five years, as noted in the Introduction. However, our analysis of data for inmates who received rehabilitation programs suggests that there was no overall significant connection between an inmate completing these programs and the inmate's likelihood to recidivate. These results, although somewhat constrained by data limitations that we will discuss later, are serious enough to highlight an urgent need for Corrections to take a more active and meaningful role in ensuring that these programs are effective.

To determine whether in‑prison rehabilitation programs reduced recidivism rates for the inmates who completed them, we began by making three key decisions. First, although the board defines recidivism as a conviction for a new felony or misdemeanor committed within three years of release from custody, we limited our analysis to one‑ and two‑year recidivism rates. We did this because Corrections has accurate data on program participation only beginning in October 2014, when it implemented a new data system. Because CBT programs expanded to 11 male prisons in fiscal year 2014–15, we also gave inmates time to take CBT classes before they were released from prison during fiscal year 2015–16. Second, we focused our analysis on two groups of inmates: those who received four types of CBT programs—substance abuse disorder treatment, anger management, criminal thinking, and family relationships—and those who did not complete any CBT at the 11 prisons that offered CBT during the period we examined.5 We focused our analysis on CBT because the majority—70 percent—of the State's recent expansion of its rehabilitation programs budget was solely for expanding CBT to all prisons. Third, we considered inmates as having their needs met if they completed at least half of the CBT programs that Corrections determined they needed. Conversely, we considered inmates as having no needs met if they were not assigned to any CBT programs that Corrections determined they needed. Appendix A includes the detailed methodology used in our analysis and its results and limitations.

As shown in Table 3, the recidivism rate for inmates in the group who had most of their needs met was similar to that of the group with inmates who had no needs met. In fact, the two‑year recidivism rates for both groups of inmates were between 24 and 25 percent. Our review analyzed inmates who were released in fiscal year 2015–16 and, using data from DOJ, determined whether those individuals were subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor or felony within two years of release.

Table 3
Recidivism Rates Generally Did Not Vary Between the Two Inmate Groups We Examined
Recidivism Rate
Time elapsed
since release
1 year 12% 13%
2 year 25% 24%

Source: Analysis of Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS) and DOJ data.

* We excluded programs designated for inmates serving lengthy periods of incarceration, such as life with the possibility of parole.

Many factors influence an inmate's likelihood to recidivate, such as education, race, age, and crime risk.6 Failing to consider factors such as these when conducting an analysis of recidivism has the potential to undermine the results. For example, Corrections' 2017 Outcome Evaluation Report indicates that inmates over age 55 are significantly less likely to recidivate than inmates who are 25 or younger. Thus, a detailed analysis should consider inmates' ages, because each additional inmate over age 55 decreases the recidivism rate irrespective of the programs those inmates complete. To ensure that our results were not skewed in this manner—either by education, self‑identified race, age, crime risk, or prison—we performed additional analyses and found that, even when taking the impact of these factors into account, we identified no significant overall relationship between completing CBT programs and reduced recidivism.

We conducted a more focused analysis of our inmate groups by examining whether completing CBT classes was related to reductions in the two‑year recidivism rate within each of the four categories—education, self‑identified race, age, and crime risk. For example, in examining the relationship between inmates with different levels of crime risk, we found that the group of inmates that showed the strongest relationship between completing CBT classes and a decrease in recidivism rate were those with a high risk of committing violent crimes. Specifically, for this group, completing assigned CBT classes was strongly related to a 16 percent decrease in recidivism. For other inmate groups in which there appears to be a relationship between completing CBT classes and reduced recidivism, see Table A.

We also analyzed our inmate groups to determine whether there was a relationship between inmates completing CBT classes in a particular prison and recidivism. Although we did not find a significant relationship in overall recidivism rates across all 11 prisons, our results indicated that inmates incarcerated at one prison had a significantly stronger relationship between completing CBT classes and their risk of recidivating. Specifically, it appears that at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, located in Kings County, inmates who completed CBT classes had a recidivism rate that was 18 percent lower than for inmates who did not complete these classes. A prison administrator stated that during the time period of our analysis they were doing several things that may have made their CBT classes more effective. The administrator cited an immersive CBT environment, in which inmates taking CBT classes were housed together, and incentives for the inmates, such as individual cells, as potential reasons for the lower recidivism rates. In addition, the prison offers peer mentoring programs in which inmates with high social standing in the prison act as peer mentors in the CBT classes.

The deputy director of Corrections' Department of Rehabilitation Programs (deputy director) stated that, while disappointing, he accepts the results of our analysis. He believes our results may be a reflection of the fact that in‑prison treatment alone does not adequately impact recidivism. He further stated that a statistical model that included other in‑prison rehabilitation programs beyond CBT, as well as follow‑up post‑release treatment in the community, may yield positive results. Although it is unclear whether a more comprehensive study would definitively show that rehabilitation programs were reducing recidivism, based on our analysis it is evident that Corrections should take substantive actions to help ensure that its programs are effective. As we discuss later in this report, rehabilitation programs need to reduce recidivism by only a small amount to become cost‑neutral.

Corrections Should Revalidate Its Rehabilitative Assessment Tools and Develop Procedures for Future Periodic Validations

One potential reason why our overall analysis did not find that rehabilitation programs are related to reductions in recidivism is that Corrections has not recently evaluated how well it is assessing inmates' needs and risks before placing them in rehabilitation programs. Ineffective assessments could result in Corrections failing to place inmates in the programs that would most effectively reduce their risk of recidivating. Inaccurate assessments might place inmates in the wrong programs or no programs at all, increasing their chances of recidivating. State law requires Corrections to examine and study all pertinent circumstances of an inmate's life that caused him or her to violate the law and be committed to prison. State law, regulations, and Corrections' practices further require Corrections to administer assessments to all inmates during the reception process or during their annual review to determine their rehabilitation needs and risk of recidivating.

Specifically, Corrections uses COMPAS to assist in determining an inmate's placement in a rehabilitation program and gives a CSRA score to all inmates to determine their risk of recidivating. CSRA is an assessment tool that uses a set of risk factors, including age, gender, and criminal convictions, to determine inmates' recidivism risk. Inmates' COMPAS scores are used in conjunction with their CSRA risk scores to determine what rehabilitation programs are needed. Finally, Corrections uses TABE to assess inmates' general academic ability. Although an outside entity validated TABE to ensure its accuracy in 2017, COMPAS and CSRA have not been recently reviewed and may no longer accurately assess inmates' rehabilitative needs and risk of recidivating.

Specifically, Corrections has not validated COMPAS since 2010, when it used data for inmates that were released over 10 years ago, from fiscal years 2005–06 through 2008–09, when conducting the validation. Further, CSRA was last validated in 2013 using data for inmates that were released 16 years ago, in fiscal year 2002–03. The validation of COMPAS and CSRA confirmed that they appropriately identified the needs and recidivism risks of inmates who were representative of the inmate population in prison at that time. The validations included Corrections testing whether COMPAS yielded the same rehabilitative needs scale results when given to the same inmate multiple times and whether applying CSRA to released inmates adequately predicted their risk of recidivating. The validations also evaluated whether the needs scale that COMPAS produced—low need, moderate need, and high need—corresponded to inmates' future recidivism rates.

However, because the studies validated the needs and risks of inmates who were in prison at least 10 years ago, COMPAS and CSRA have not accounted for the drastic changes in the prison population since realignment. As discussed in the Introduction, the number of inmates in custody for crimes against persons, which tend to be more serious than other crimes, increased from 59 percent in 2010 to 76 percent in 2017. Statistical researchers have indicated that assessment tools—such as COMPAS and CSRA—may become unreliable and inaccurate if not validated periodically, especially when there is significant change in the target population.

These assessment tools have not been validated on Corrections' more violent inmate population and thus may be failing to place inmates in appropriate programs that reduce their recidivism risk.

Moreover, although the validation studies that Corrections last conducted for COMPAS and CSRA concluded that the assessment tools were generally sufficient, they both highlighted minor issues related to their assessment of violent offenders. Specifically, the results of the COMPAS validation showed that although the assessment was generally adequate to predict recidivism, it failed to meet the minimum risk prediction threshold for determining the specific likelihood of inmate recidivism by violent crime. Similarly, the results of the CSRA validation showed that although the assessment was generally adequate to predict recidivism, the study identified a relevant percentage of inmates assessed as low risk who ultimately recidivated by committing violent crimes. The minor issues identified in the COMPAS and CSRA validation studies further support the need for Corrections to revalidate them, particularly in light of Corrections' inmate population changes.

According to the deputy director, revalidating COMPAS and CSRA is a priority for Corrections, but Corrections has a number of other initiatives that it wants to complete first, including implementing a tool to ensure that its vendors deliver CBT programs consistently and effectively across all prisons. Furthermore, Corrections convened a workgroup in November 2018 to engage in further discussions on assessment tools other than COMPAS or CSRA to determine whether they would better measure inmates' rehabilitation needs and risks. According to the deputy director, Corrections does not have any formal procedures or guidelines that delineate standards for when assessment tools need revalidation.

On a positive note, Corrections has made strides in administering assessments to a greater number of inmates. According to the Blueprint Monitoring Report published periodically by the Inspector General, Corrections has increased the percentage of inmates who have received these assessments from 44 percent of the total inmate population in fiscal year 2012–13 to 93 percent of the inmate population eligible to receive a COMPAS assessment in fiscal year 2017–18. The Inspector General also reported a slight increase in inmates assessed with a CSRA score, from 96 percent in fiscal year 2011–12 to 98 percent in fiscal year 2017–18. Additionally, Corrections recorded a TABE score for 94 percent of the prison population in fiscal year 2017–18. Corrections' increase in administering the COMPAS assessment across the inmate population helps it meet its regulatory requirement to administer COMPAS to all eligible inmates and creates greater opportunity to provide inmates with targeted rehabilitation. Although Corrections still needs to make progress with respect to determining the validity of its assessment tools and ensuring that all eligible inmates receive those assessments, according to Corrections' Outcome Evaluation Report, assessment tools alone cannot reduce recidivism. Rather, their results need to be combined with appropriate, evidence‑based treatment. However, as we discuss in the next section, Corrections is also failing to ensure that inmates receive evidence‑based treatment, thereby increasing their risk of recidivating.

Corrections' Lack of Oversight Has Resulted in Vendors Using CBT Class Curricula That Have Not Been Evaluated to Ensure That They Reduce Recidivism

Another potential reason why we generally did not find a relationship between rehabilitation programs and reduced recidivism is Corrections' failure to ensure that all of its CBT class curricula are evidence based, resulting in a significant portion of inmates receiving a curriculum that has not been proven effective in reducing recidivism. Researchers designate a curriculum as evidence based when it has been evaluated using strong research designs and has been shown to have a positive impact on the program's participants. Corrections recently relied on the Pew Results First Clearinghouse Database (Pew)—a database that contains an extensive list of CBT programs that researchers have designated as evidence based. Corrections contracts all of the teaching of the four elements of its CBT programs we reviewed—anger management, family relationships, criminal thinking, and substance abuse disorder treatment—to vendors. Each prison contracts with a single vendor to provide the CBT programs, and every contract we reviewed requires vendors to identify and use evidence‑based curricula for their CBT programs.7 However, according to the deputy director, the contracts do not require that vendors use CBT programs listed as evidence based in Pew.

Due to a lack of oversight by Corrections, a significant portion of the CBT curricula that have been taught at some of the prisons we reviewed were not evidence based. Specifically, we reviewed contracts for vendors that provided CBT classes at 10 of Corrections' 36 prisons and found that 17 percent of their CBT curricula were not designated as evidence based, either by Pew or by other sources provided by Corrections, as shown in Table 4. Moreover, three prisons contracted with vendors that used non‑evidence‑based CBT curricula in at least one‑quarter of their classes, and one prison's vendor did not use evidence‑based CBT curricula in over half of its classes.

Furthermore, the number of CBT curricula that were evidence based varied widely among prisons, and Corrections is unable to track whether an inmate received evidence‑based curricula. For example, in Pelican Bay State Prison, only one of 32 curricula (3 percent) were not evidence based, while at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (R. J. Donovan) nine of the 16 curricula (56 percent) were not evidence based. We analyzed these data to ascertain whether the portion of evidence‑based curricula offered by a vendor had a relationship to the recidivism rates of the inmates those vendors served, but data limitations precluded us from making conclusions in this analysis. According to the deputy director, Corrections has not historically monitored whether inmates receive evidence‑based programs, though Corrections has recently changed that.

Table 4
Number of Evidence‑Based CBT Curricula Varies Across Corrections' Prisons
Prison vendor number of non‑evidence‑based CBT curricula Percent of non‑evidence‑based CBT curricula
R. J. Donovan Epidaurus dba Amity Foundation 9 of 16 56%
Centinela State Prison Community Education Centers, Inc. 3 of 11 27
Central California Women's Facility Epidaurus dba Amity Foundation 2 of 8 25
High Desert State Prison Phoenix House of California, Inc. 6 of 27 22
California Men's Colony WestCare California, Inc. 1 of 6 17
San Quentin State Prison (San Quentin) Center Point Inc. 1 of 7 14
California Institute for Men Center Point Inc. 1 of 7 14
Kern Valley State Prison Geo Reentry Services, LLC 6 of 55 11
Folsom HealthRIGHT 360, Inc. 1 of 11 9
Pelican Bay State Prison WestCare California, Inc. 1 of 32 3
Total of all 10 prisons 31 of 180 17%

Source: Analysis of Corrections' CBT curriculums and Pew's Results First Clearinghouse Database.

Although Corrections collects information on the proportion of curricula vendors offer that are evidence based, it has not imposed sanctions on vendors that did not comply with their contracts. Because these vendors' identified and used CBT curricula that was not all evidence based, the vendors are likely in violation of their contracts. Moreover, Corrections' contract language gives it significant flexibility to sanction vendors for failing to comply with contracts, including termination of the contract. However, the deputy director stated that Corrections wants to ensure that the system is not closed off from new curricula that may be effective. Corrections has provided insufficient oversight to ensure that its vendors at each prison used evidence‑based curricula, thereby eliminating its ability to hold them accountable for failing to provide evidence‑based curricula.

According to the deputy director, Corrections plans to conduct additional oversight and enforcement in the future. He stated that the next round of CBT contracts will require each vendor to use only curricula that are designated as evidence based by Pew and indicated that Corrections will enforce that standard. He further stated that Corrections will use the data it collects on vendors' CBT curricula, as well as on‑site checks, to determine whether vendors are abiding by the terms of their contracts by teaching only evidence‑based curricula. If a vendor does not abide by the terms of its contract, Corrections will initiate a disciplinary process, beginning with a 30‑day corrective action plan and escalating to a rebid of that contract if the vendor does not fix the issue.

Corrections has already taken some first steps to help ensure that CBT vendors are complying with their contracts by commissioning the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) to produce a report that examined various existing industry best practices and identified ways to strengthen Corrections' contract compliance process. The report examined Corrections' oversight of vendors responsible for conducting CBT programs and recommended changes to the Program Accounting Review (program review) used by Corrections to ensure that vendors are complying with their CBT program contracts and that the programs are being delivered as intended. Specifically, UC Irvine recommended that the program review increase the number of group observations and the number of participant interviews, and add questions to measure factors such as the level of trust that class participants demonstrate. These changes also included increasing the amount of time the program analyst spends at the prison and conducting more staff interviews to assess the program. Two prisons piloted the resulting new program review in 2018. Corrections has stated that it agrees with UC Irvine's recommendations for improving contract compliance and has adopted the new program review, beginning in January 2019.


To ensure that Corrections has reliable tools for assessing the needs of its inmate population, it should validate COMPAS and CSRA by January 2020 and revalidate all of its assessment tools at least every five years.

To ensure that Corrections is able to discover and prioritize the most effective CBT rehabilitation curricula, it should begin using its ability to record the individual CBT curricula inmates receive, and then use this information in an analysis of its rehabilitation programs in 2020.

To ensure that its CBT classes are effective at reducing recidivism, Corrections should amend its CBT contracts to require vendors to teach only evidence‑based curricula as designated by Pew and should provide adequate oversight, including implementing UC Irvine's contract compliance recommendations, to ensure that its vendors adhere to this standard by January 2020.

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Corrections Is Failing to Place Inmates Into Appropriate Rehabilitation Programs, Leading to Inmates Being Released From Prison Without Having Any of Their Rehabilitation Needs Met

Key Points:

Corrections Has Neither Placed Inmates on Program Waiting Lists Appropriately Nor Assigned Inmates to the Programs Necessary to Address Their Rehabilitative Needs

Using Corrections' inmate data, we determined that during fiscal year 2017–18 Corrections did not meet its goal of providing rehabilitative programming to 70 percent of its target population—inmates who have a moderate to high risk of recidivating and a moderate to high need for rehabilitative programming prior to their release. Specifically, we found that 24,000 of the inmates released during fiscal year 2017–18 had a moderate to high risk of recidivating and a moderate to high need for at least one rehabilitation program. Of those inmates, only 9,000—or 38 percent—completed or were assigned to a program at some point between October 2014, when SOMS went live, and the date the inmate was released from prison. Thus, 62 percent of the inmates released in fiscal year 2017–18 who had been assessed as having rehabilitative needs and having a risk of recidivating were released without any of these needs having been met.

Although Corrections assesses the rehabilitative needs of inmates, it has not consistently placed inmates onto waiting lists for rehabilitation programs or assigned inmates who are on waiting lists to needed classes. Department policies require Corrections to give priority for assignment to programs to inmates who are within two years of their release. Corrections' policies and regulations further require its staff to administer COMPAS rehabilitative assessments to inmates during the reception center process when first incarcerated, or during the annual review process. Figure 5 depicts the assessment and waiting list process. Corrections' policies require that it place inmates onto rehabilitation program waiting lists generally within five years of their scheduled release, depending on the types of programs an inmate needs.

Figure 5
State Law and Corrections' Policies Require Prisons to Assess Inmates' Rehabilitation Needs and Attempt to Address Those Needs Before Their Release Dates

A flowchart describing timeframes associated with Corrections assessments of an inmate's needs and its attempt address those needs before the inmate's release date.

Source: Analysis of state law and Corrections' policies and procedures.

Note: Individual prisons may alter this timeline, if necessary, based on the needs of the prison.

* Corrections also performs COMPAS assessment during inmates' annual classification committee review process if they have not completed a COMPAS assessment at the reception center.

Corrections prioritizes inmates for placement into academic programs throughout their incarceration. Additionally, inmates can be prioritized for vocational programs until they are within 12 months of release.

Corrections identifies inmates within its target population as inmates assessed with a moderate to high risk of recidivating and a moderate to high rehabilitation program need.

Our detailed review of records for 60 inmates who were in prison as of September 2018 showed that Corrections had failed to place 20, or 33 percent, of them onto waiting lists within five years of their scheduled release.8 Of further concern is that 14 of these 20 inmates did not have enough time left to serve before their scheduled release dates to complete their needed classes, making it impossible for these inmates to receive the rehabilitation programs they need.

Although Corrections' policy requires prisons to place inmates onto waiting lists within five years of release, it gives the correctional counselors latitude as to when that placement actually occurs. According to the deputy director, Corrections allows each prison, through the classification committee and correctional counselors, to independently determine when to place inmates on waiting lists. As a result, some prisons immediately place inmates onto waiting lists during the initial classification committee meeting, and other prisons wait until inmates get closer to their expected release date. However, if inmates are not on waiting lists, assignment officers—local Corrections staff responsible for manually assigning inmates from waiting lists into rehabilitation classes—may not be aware that they are in need of a particular program and may fail to assign them to one when space becomes available. In one example from the 60 inmate records we reviewed, Corrections did not place an inmate with a high rehabilitative need for substance abuse disorder treatment on a waiting list for a substance abuse class, even though the inmate was due to be released from prison in 2018 after being incarcerated for more than three years. Because of Corrections' inadequate oversight of correctional counselors at individual prisons, inmates are not consistently being placed on waiting lists, and as a result, some are not getting assigned to needed programs.

However, even when Corrections followed its own processes and placed inmates on waiting lists for rehabilitation programs within the appropriate time frame, it did not consistently assign all inmates from the waiting lists to necessary rehabilitation classes before their release from prison. Corrections' policy requires prisons to assign inmates to CBT classes within two years of release, and to academic and vocational programs within four years of release, but it gives assignment officers discretion as to when that assignment actually occurs. Our detailed review of the aforementioned 60 inmate records found that Corrections failed to assign six inmates—10 percent—to the classes they needed to meet their rehabilitative needs, even though they were on waiting lists for those classes. Furthermore, at the time of our review none of the six had enough time left in their respective sentences to complete the courses they needed.

Of additional concern is that the CBT programs we reviewed could accommodate additional inmates, as their vacancy rates average 24 percent. In one example, despite a 24 percent vacancy rate for substance abuse programs during fiscal year 2017–18 at Folsom, Corrections did not assign an inmate to the five‑month program, even though the inmate was a high risk for recidivating, had a high need for substance abuse programming, and was in prison for more than a year. According to the Folsom correctional counselor III, among the reasons that an inmate with a rehabilitative need may not be assigned to a rehabilitation program are the inmate being assigned to another program and concern that the inmate's enrollment in the class may be a security threat to the staff, other inmates, or the prison.

In addition, the waiting lists that Corrections uses to prioritize inmates' placement into rehabilitation programs do not reflect the priorities that Corrections identified in its blueprint. Specifically, the blueprint prioritizes inmates with a moderate to high risk of recidivating and a moderate to high need for rehabilitation programs. However, in practice, Corrections is not prioritizing inmates with a high risk to recidivate and a high need for the rehabilitation programs. Moreover, when the correct inmates are not assigned to rehabilitative programming, those inmates can be denied the opportunity to earn rehabilitation program credits that reduce their time left to serve.

We examined the records for a selection of 19 inmates placed into rehabilitation programs during fiscal year 2017–18 at the three prisons we reviewed—Folsom, San Quentin, and R. J. Donovan—and found that 15 of the 19 should not have received priority for enrollment. Specifically, of the 19 inmates, four had a low risk of recidivating, four had a low need for the rehabilitation program they were placed in, and seven had a combination of both a low risk and a low need. In each of these instances, we found at least 22 other inmates at the prison who were not currently enrolled in another rehabilitation program and who had a moderate to high risk of recidivating, a moderate to high need for the program, and a scheduled release date within the next five years. As shown in Figure 6, Corrections assigned those 15 inmates ahead of a total of more than 700 other inmates with higher risks and needs who were not enrolled in another rehabilitation program. For example, we reviewed the data for three inmates that Corrections placed into vocational education programs at R. J. Donovan on the same day in April 2018. None of them had a moderate to high need for vocational education, and only one had a moderate to high risk of recidivating. Further, when we reviewed the inmate population for R. J. Donovan on that day, we found 89 inmates who should have received higher priority because they were not currently enrolled in another rehabilitation program and had a moderate to high risk of recidivating, a moderate to high need for the program, and a scheduled release date within the next five years.

Figure 6
Corrections Assigned 15 Inmates at the Three Prisons We Reviewed to Rehabilitation Programs Even Though More Than 700 Other Inmates Had Higher Risks and Needs

A graphic indicating the number of inmates three prisons assigned to rehabilitation programs even though there were inmates with higher risks and needs.

Source: Analysis of SOMS data.

According to internal documents we reviewed, Corrections is aware that its waiting lists have been ineffective at prioritizing inmates based on their risks and needs. The deputy director noted that the waiting list had been useful for certain purposes, but an internal Corrections document from March 2018 stated that "the waiting list has been useless for assigning inmates to rehabilitative program assignments since implementation because it does not address any rehabilitative case factors." Specifically, the current waiting lists do not consider rehabilitative case factors when prioritizing inmates for assignment, such as the inmate's CSRA and COMPAS scores. As of December 2018, Corrections is in the process of developing a solution to update the waiting list system to one that is more dynamic and will allow Corrections to update the criteria to match its priorities, with an expected completion date of April 2019. Because Corrections has not held prisons accountable for putting inmates onto waiting lists within five years of their scheduled release and has not enforced a consistent process to assigning inmates into classes, it is failing to maximize the number of inmates who receive rehabilitation programs.

Corrections Is Not Staffing Rehabilitation Programs at the Levels Needed to Run Them Effectively

Corrections has yet to staff its rehabilitation programs at levels sufficient to meet its staffing goals for its rehabilitation programs. As part of its blueprint, Corrections committed to an increase in its rehabilitative staff to support its new standardized staffing plan. The new staffing plan redistributed resources to correspond to the reduction in the inmate population due to realignment and the increased need for staff dedicated to inmate rehabilitation programs. It set a goal of providing rehabilitation programming to 70 percent of inmates who have a moderate to high risk of recidivating and medium to high rehabilitation programming needs before their release. Corrections has performed several staffing‑level assessments over the past several years, and rehabilitation program staffing levels have increased since the 2012 blueprint. Using inmate data, we verified that Corrections' budgeted staffing levels for fiscal year 2017–18 for its vocational and academic education programs were sufficient for it to achieve its goal of providing rehabilitative services to 70 percent of its target population. Although we found that the staffing assessments that Corrections has performed are reasonable, the programs need to be fully staffed for the rehabilitation programs to have their maximum impact.

Corrections has historically struggled with high staff vacancy rates for its academic and vocational education programs, which are run by its own staff, and this has limited the opportunities for inmates to participate in these two types of rehabilitation programs. For example, according to the Inspector General's 2013 Blueprint Monitoring Report, Corrections had vacancies in 20 percent of its rehabilitation staff positions as of August 2013. Although Corrections has improved its staffing levels, these two programs combined still had a 13 percent vacancy rate according to the 2018 Blueprint Monitoring Report, as shown in Table 5.9 The deputy director believes that an appropriate level for rehabilitative programming would be to have vacancies in less than 10 percent of budgeted positions. Additionally, the deputy director stated that some reasons the vacancy levels were higher than 10 percent included the large‑scale expansion of rehabilitation programs over the last few years and the difficulty of hiring certain educational classifications in remote locations. However, Corrections' inability to meet its rehabilitative staffing requirements means it may not be able to meet its goals of providing rehabilitation programs to those inmates who need them prior to release and maximizing the programs' positive impacts.

Table 5
Corrections Had Vacancies in More Than 10 Percent of Its Budgeted Rehabilitation Program Staff Positions
Academic education 543 491 52 10%
Vocational education 304 250 54 18
Totals 847 741 106 13%

Source: Analysis of the Inspector General's Ninth Report: Blueprint Monitoring, dated July 2018.

Note: Actual numbers were identified by the Inspector General's staff during on‑site visit reviews of each prison from December 2017 through January 2018.

* This table does not include staffing levels for CBT, substance abuse, or preemployment Transitions programs because those programs are staffed through third‑party vendors. According to the July 2018 Blueprint Monitoring Report, these vendor‑operated programs had a combined vacancy rate of 7 percent. The table also does not include CalPIA staffing vacancies.

The Low Enrollment Rates of Corrections' Rehabilitation Programs Reduce Their Benefit to Inmates and the State

High staff vacancy rates and a failure to place inmates on program waiting lists has resulted in Corrections not utilizing all of its programs' budgeted capacity. Although Corrections has expanded its rehabilitation programs to all 36 prisons, prison staff have not enrolled the maximum number of inmates in each rehabilitation class. As shown in Table 6, the three prisons we reviewed enrolled inmates to fill 76 percent of their budgeted capacity for academic education programs, 76 percent for CBT programs, and 68 percent for vocational education, on average, during fiscal year 2017–18.10 We calculated enrollment rates by comparing the number of inmates enrolled in each program category with each category's budgeted capacity. At individual prisons, we found that R. J. Donovan, at 67 percent, had the lowest academic enrollment rate; San Quentin had the lowest CBT enrollment rate, at 67 percent; and R. J. Donovan had the lowest vocational enrollment rate, at 40 percent.

Table 6
The Three Prisons We Reviewed Did Not Enroll the Maximum Number of Inmates in Their Rehabilitation Programs During Fiscal Year 2017–18
Prison Monthly average budgeted inmate capacity Monthly average number of enrolled inmates Enrollment rate
Academic education Folsom 537 415 77%
R. J. Donovan 702 471 67
San Quentin 319 292 92
Average 519 393 76%
CBT programs* Folsom 251 190 76%
R. J. Donovan 240 206 86
San Quentin 264 178 67
Average 252 191 76%
Vocational education Folsom 351 300 85%
R. J. Donovan 270 107 40
San Quentin 162 125 77
Average 261 177 68%
CalPIA's vocational programs Folsom 100 26 26%
San Quentin 56 44 79
Average 78 35 45%

Source: Analysis of SOMS data for fiscal year 2017–18.

* We excluded programs designated for inmates serving lengthy periods of incarceration, such as life with the possibility of parole.

CalPIA does not have any vocational programs at R. J. Donovan.

Prisons have been unable to address the causes of low enrollment, which mainly involve problems in hiring staff and the lack of adequate space. Specifically, the R. J. Donovan principal stated that staff shortages and difficulty filling vacant positions affected its vocational enrollment rate, as four of its nine positions were vacant during fiscal year 2017–18 and had been vacant since 2016. Both R. J. Donovan and Folsom indicated that they have continuously posted the vacancies and have even interviewed people to fill the positions. However, for various reasons, they have each been unable to fill them. The Folsom and R. J. Donovan school principals stated that physical space limitations also have restricted the number of students they can enroll in their classes, preventing the prisons from filling all of the budgeted slots in their academic and vocational courses. For example, the roof in the building where Folsom held three of its vocational classes needed repairs, causing Folsom to reduce the class size in those programs. The R. J. Donovan school principal stated that the fire marshal limited the capacity in at least three of the prison's academic education classes from 27 to 16, a reduction of 33 slots. While Corrections does use space surveys to identify available space for program expansion and select areas, such as kitchens and closets, that it can retrofit for educational purposes, it does not use these reports to find more permanent space solutions.

CalPIA provides additional vocational courses with unique benefits to inmates, including potentially decreasing recidivism at a higher rate than Corrections' rehabilitation programs. As discussed in the Introduction, CalPIA has partnered with various unions to provide inmates with benefits beyond vocational training. Upon completion of its union‑affiliated programs, inmates become eligible for each union's apprenticeship program upon release, and receive tools and their first year of union dues from CalPIA. Additionally, in July 2011 CalPIA reported that the recidivism rate for those inmates who completed its vocational education programs was 7 percent, significantly lower than Corrections' overall recidivism rate of 51 percent for inmates released in fiscal year 2010–11. CalPIA's ability to select inmates with a minimum or medium security level for placement into its programs could be affecting its recidivism rate.

However, CalPIA has not updated this rate in seven years, and in February 2017 it entered into an agreement with UC Irvine to recalculate the recidivism rate. CalPIA estimated that this recalculation will be complete in May 2019. In addition, as noted previously, drastic changes in the prison population, including an increase in the number of inmates in custody for violent crimes, warrant a recalculation of the recidivism rate for inmates that have completed CalPIA's vocational programs.

Despite the potential benefits, CalPIA's vocational programs have low inmate enrollment rates. CalPIA's enrollment rates at all of the nine prisons where it has vocational programs averaged only 48 percent during fiscal years 2014–15 through 2017–18. Further, we found that Folsom used only 26 percent of CalPIA's vocational programs' capacity, while San Quentin used 79 percent, for an average of 45 percent across the two prisons. CalPIA's manager of vocational education programs (CalPIA manager) stated that the process by which Corrections assigns inmates to CalPIA programs has limited the number entering its programs. Once an inmate arrives at a prison, Corrections requires that he or she meet with a classification committee that is responsible for placing inmates into programs based in part on their needs. However, according to the CalPIA manager, CalPIA staff cannot regularly attend these meetings, and as a result the committee is giving priority to Corrections' rehabilitation and work programs over CalPIA's programs, thereby limiting the number of inmates CalPIA can select. The deputy director indicated that classification is a local responsibility and that Corrections does not have a statewide policy that requires inmates to take specific rehabilitation courses over others.

Although CalPIA has been working with Corrections to address the low enrollment in its vocational programs, resulting in modest improvements, its programs continue to be underutilized. To better ensure that inmates receive vocational education, CalPIA and Corrections established a pilot program in May 2018 that would automatically enroll inmates into Corrections or CalPIA vocational courses before assigning them to prison jobs. Specifically, at select prisons CalPIA hired representatives to play a more active role in the classification process by attending committee meetings and increasing interaction with inmates and classification staff to encourage enrollment in CalPIA vocational education programs. Corrections began implementing this pilot program at five prisons in August 2018, encompassing 12 CalPIA vocational programs, and thus far the enrollment rate has increased from 44 percent of capacity in July 2018 to 53 percent in October 2018. According to CalPIA's general manager, it is in the process of expanding the pilot program to all prisons where CalPIA offers vocational education. Although CalPIA's programs remain significantly underutilized, it is planning to expand from the nine prisons where it currently provides vocational programs to offer opportunities to inmates at 18 prisons in fiscal year 2018–19.


To ensure that inmates with the highest risks and needs are wait listed, prioritized, and assigned appropriately, Corrections should do the following:

To ensure that it can meet the rehabilitation needs of its inmates, Corrections should develop and begin implementing plans to meet its staffing‑level goals for rehabilitative programming by January 2020 and should implement a process to continuously update and monitor these goals.

To increase the space available for rehabilitation programs, by January 2020 Corrections should analyze and report on its current infrastructure capacity compared to its needs for the programs. The report should include the current space available and the square footage needed. If the report indicates that additional space is necessary, Corrections should work with the Legislature to address those needs.

To improve the inmate enrollment rates in CalPIA's vocational education programs, CalPIA and Corrections should require a CalPIA representative to attend all classification committee meetings at all nine prisons where CalPIA offers vocational education. Corrections should also ensure that it enrolls eligible inmates in CalPIA's vocational programs before filling spots in its own vocational programs. In addition, if the CalPIA recidivism study indicates that CalPIA's vocational programs are better at reducing recidivism than Corrections' vocational programs, CalPIA should request funding from the Legislature to expand its vocational training program.

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Additional Oversight Is Needed to Ensure the Effectiveness of Corrections' Rehabilitation Programs

Key Points:

Corrections Has Neither Established Performance Measures for Its Rehabilitation Programs Nor Measured Their Cost‑Effectiveness

Because one of the primary goals of rehabilitation programs is to reduce recidivism, we expected to find that Corrections had established performance measures for its programs—such as a target decrease in recidivism—to ensure that they achieve their intended result and are cost‑effective for the State; however, we found that it has not done so. Developing meaningful and accurate targets is a critical step in ensuring that rehabilitation programs are achieving their desired outcomes. The deputy director stated that several barriers have historically inhibited Corrections from setting recidivism goals, including statutory changes for inmate sentencing. However, he noted that if done appropriately, a specific goal for reducing recidivism would be useful. We believe that establishing annual targets for reducing recidivism would be both useful and feasible.

Many other states have set specific goals for reducing recidivism and are receiving assistance in meeting these goals from a federal grant. Specifically, the Statewide Recidivism Reduction Grant (recidivism reduction grant), operated by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance, requires grantees to focus on specific priorities related to reducing recidivism, including implementing evidence‑based practices and focusing on the most at‑risk inmates as a condition of receiving up to $3 million. As an example, Minnesota has set a five‑year goal of reducing recidivism by 3 percent with the help of nearly $3 million in recidivism reduction grant funds. Minnesota is pursuing that goal in a number of ways, including focusing efforts on the highest‑risk inmates and using evidence‑based programs. According to the deputy director, he does not believe the division has ever applied for this grant, but it may be interested in doing so in the future.

In addition to setting recidivism targets, Corrections could use other metrics to help improve its performance and to illustrate how effectively it uses state resources. These metrics include the percentages of inmates who enroll in and complete the rehabilitation programs that match their needs. Although Corrections has been increasing the number of inmates it enrolls in its CBT classes, as shown in Table 7, over the time period we reviewed its prisons enrolled only from 16 percent to 22 percent of inmates in their needed CBT courses before they were released. Table 7 also shows that completion percentages for CBT programs ranged from 67 percent to 71 percent over the time period we reviewed. Corrections has a goal of providing rehabilitative services to 70 percent of its target population. However, Corrections does not have specific goals for inmates to complete CBT classes. According to its 2018 annual report, C‑ROB emphasized the importance of measuring program outcomes, such as the percentage of inmates completing CBT classes. Until Corrections develops meaningful measures pertaining to program participation and completion, it will not be able to adequately track or evaluate its performance over time.

Table 7
The Number of Inmates Who Enrolled in and Completed at Least One CBT Program Remains Low
INMATES ENROLLED IN at least one CBT program INMATES WHO COMPLETED at least one CBT program
2015–16 25,041 4,006 16% 2,699 67%
2016–17 26,379 4,681 18 3,325 71
2017–18 32,221 7,168 22 4,983 70
Totals 83,641 15,855 19% 11,007 69%

Source: Analysis of SOMS data.

Rehabilitation Programs Need to Reduce Recidivism by Only a Small Amount to Be Cost Neutral

$298 million
(rehabilitation budget)
= $8,500 per inmate completing one or more rehabilitation programs*
35,000 inmates completing programs during fiscal year 2017–18

Source: Analysis of the fiscal year 2018–19 Budget Act and Corrections' monthly Rehabilitation Program reports throughout fiscal year 2017–18.

* We have excluded the cost and number of completions associated with CalPIA vocational education programs from this calculation.

In addition to encouraging better performance outcomes, setting performance targets will also help Corrections and the Legislature ensure that rehabilitation programs are cost‑effective. Corrections currently does little to ensure that its rehabilitation programs are cost‑effective and has not conducted cost‑effectiveness studies. However, Corrections has much of the information needed to do so. For example, Corrections estimated that it cost approximately $79,000 annually to incarcerate an inmate in fiscal year 2017–18. Based on its rehabilitation budget and the number of inmates who completed rehabilitation programs during that same fiscal year, we estimate that it cost the State about $8,500 for each inmate that completed one or more rehabilitation programs. Thus, as shown in the text box, Corrections might be able to demonstrate that its programs are at least cost neutral if they keep just one out of every nine inmates who completed them from recidivating. It is important to note that this example does not include the avoided societal cost for the crime that triggered the reincarceration.

Although Corrections plans to coordinate with external researchers to conduct a performance evaluation of the rehabilitation programs—which may include a high‑level cost‑effectiveness analysis—over the course of the next two years, Corrections has taken no formal steps to initiate this process. Because the Legislature provided Corrections with a significant budget increase so that it could expand rehabilitation programs to all prisons in the State, it is vital that Corrections demonstrate that the additional investment was worthwhile.

Corrections Has Not Conducted a Comprehensive Evaluation of Its Rehabilitation Programs to Determine Whether They Are Effective

Corrections has not determined the overall effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs, including whether its programs reduce recidivism. State law encourages Corrections to develop rehabilitation programs designed to promote behavioral change and prepare inmates to successfully reintegrate into their communities. While Corrections has examined the effectiveness of its substance abuse classes, it has not conducted an analysis of the outcomes of its other rehabilitation classes or an analysis to see what classes are most effective at reducing recidivism. Thus, it is unclear how Corrections can demonstrate that its programs promote behavioral change and prepare inmates to successfully reintegrate into their communities. A comprehensive review of the rehabilitation programs' effectiveness is especially important given that our preliminary analysis found little evidence that Corrections' programs as they are currently administered reduce recidivism.

According to the deputy director, although systematically evaluating Corrections' rehabilitation programs would be valuable, this has not yet been possible, as Corrections did not extend its CBT programs to all of the prisons in the system until 2016. Therefore, according to the deputy director, it will not be possible to obtain recidivism information on inmates enrolled in CBT, vocational, and academic education programs until fiscal year 2020–21 because California calculates recidivism rates by examining whether inmates have been convicted of committing another misdemeanor or felony within three years of their release. He also stated that conducting such a study of Corrections' rehabilitation programs would be costly and would require a good deal of time. Further, Corrections never conducted this type of study in the past because, according to Corrections' SOMS user project manager and data integrity group lead, before the implementation of SOMS in October 2014 Corrections did not have reliable rehabilitation program data. With the implementation of SOMS, Corrections now centrally tracks program information, such as enrollment and outcomes, which will make a future recidivism study possible. A rehabilitation program administrator at one of the prisons we examined stated that outcome data for CBT programs would be very valuable in comparing the effectiveness of programs from year to year. However, until Corrections both analyzes its existing data and enough time passes to ascertain inmates' recidivism rates, details on the effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs will continue to be lacking.

Although Corrections has never conducted an analysis to determine the effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs, it has taken some initial steps to ensure that it gathers program‑related data consistently at all of its prisons and that vendors conduct CBT programs in the same manner statewide. Specifically, it has contracted with UC Irvine to examine ways to improve the uniformity of some of its CBT classes and the data gathered from those classes. UC Irvine produced a report for Corrections that provides recommendations to ensure that vendors implement CBT programs consistently across all prisons. Although this evaluation by UC Irvine tested only a small number of CBT classes, and its review did not attempt to determine their overall effectiveness, it was an important first step to ensure that Corrections is gathering data and implementing CBT programs appropriately and consistently across its prisons.

UC Irvine's report examined how Corrections could improve measurements of program fidelity in CBT programs. Program fidelity concerns the degree to which a program is delivered as intended. Ensuring that these programs are delivered as intended is vitally important, as the UC Irvine report states that program fidelity in evidence‑based CBT programs is strongly correlated to reduced recidivism. The report recommends that Corrections adopt a program fidelity checklist (checklist) to help ensure that its CBT programs are being taught in a similar manner across its prisons. The checklist—which UC Irvine created for Corrections—would integrate measures such as adherence to the type of treatment, the amount of time inmates spend in class, and the quality of teaching. The deputy director stated that historically a lack of program fidelity has made it difficult to assess program performance and the performance of vendors across its facilities. According to the deputy director, Corrections has not had time to implement the checklist, as UC Irvine released the report at the end of June 2018, but it plans to do so by the end of fiscal year 2018–19. Until Corrections implements the checklist across all of its prisons, the vendors may not be implementing CBT programs as designed. Therefore, Corrections will be unable to ensure that the programs are as effective as possible at all of its prisons.

Additionally, the deputy director stated that Corrections intends to measure the effectiveness of its vocational education programs in both reducing recidivism and increasing the ability of inmates to find employment after release, but it has had difficulty in doing so. Corrections uses an agreement with the California Workforce Development Board and Employment Development Department (EDD) to track employment and the type of employment for former inmates who received vocational education programs. For example, Corrections could track whether inmates who received plumbing classes eventually became plumbers. However, according to EDD's privacy and disclosure program coordinator, its system uses Social Security numbers to identify individuals. According to a work group report issued by the Prison to Employment Initiative—a state‑funded group created to improve inmates' employability—the Social Security numbers in SOMS come from DOJ "rap sheets." State regulations restrict Corrections' ability to provide inmates' Social Security numbers, permitting it to do so only on a need‑to‑know basis to persons or agencies specifically authorized to receive the information, which, according to Corrections' assistant general counsel, is preventing EDD from getting the data it needs to track inmate employment.

To attempt to correct this issue, representatives from DOJ, Corrections, and EDD stated that they have made recent efforts to change state law to explicitly allow them to share the Social Security numbers, but thus far they have been unsuccessful. According to the deputy director, Corrections would like to conduct this analysis of vocational education outcomes, but it has no plans to do so until the issue of using inmates' Social Security numbers is resolved. Additionally, a former prison warden now involved in efforts to assist inmates with finding employment after release noted that some inmates claim to have multiple Social Security numbers, which would further complicate tracking inmate employment post‑release. The inability of Corrections to track inmates' employment after release means that it is very difficult to know how effective its education and job training programs are at preparing inmates for the workforce.

Although Corrections has expanded its volunteer programs to underserved locations and increased the number of volunteer program opportunities for inmates, it has not yet determined whether any of its volunteer programs are effective at reducing recidivism or produce other positive effects. Provided by nonprofits and volunteers, the programs include substance abuse support groups, animal therapy, parenting classes, and health and wellness programs. Corrections staff do not teach or participate in the programs, but rather oversee them and perform administrative tasks related to these programs. In fiscal year 2017–18, volunteer programs had a budget of over $11 million and enrolled an average of 61,000 inmates per month.11 The significance of these programs increased in 2016 with the passage of Proposition 57, which provided the opportunity for inmates to receive time off their sentence if they completed some of these volunteer programs. However, according to a SOMS user project manager and data integrity group lead, Corrections is not required to report on the outcomes of these volunteer programs, and according to the deputy director, it has only recently begun to contemplate how best to define the effectiveness of these programs.

Although Corrections is planning to measure the effectiveness of some of its volunteer programs, it has not made sufficient progress in doing so. The deputy director noted that it is considering partnering with the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with a focus on determining how to measure the effectiveness of the 192 volunteer programs that receive grants from Corrections.

Corrections or PPIC could expand the research to include all volunteer programs, which total approximately 3,800. However, as of November 2018, they had yet to reach a formal agreement and had not yet defined the research scope. Without measuring the effectiveness of these programs, Corrections will not know which volunteer programs are working well and should be expanded to other prisons and which it should shut down because they provide no positive outcome.

Entities Responsible for Providing Oversight of Corrections' Rehabilitation Programs Have Limited Resources to Determine Whether the Programs Reduce Recidivism

Although the Legislature has tasked the Inspector General and C‑ROB with evaluating elements of Corrections' rehabilitation programs, these entities do not have sufficient resources to conduct an analysis of whether the programs reduce recidivism or are cost‑effective. The Legislature gave the Inspector General responsibility for conducting oversight of Corrections' implementation of the blueprint but, as described below, eliminated its authority to self‑initiate reviews not specifically requested by the Governor or state lawmakers. Within its current authority and resources, the Inspector General reviews unaudited Corrections rehabilitation program data and performs site visits to determine whether Corrections is meeting the goals set forth in the blueprint. For example, the Inspector General reviewed rehabilitation program data and found Corrections deficient in meeting its blueprint goal to provide programming to at least 70 percent of the target inmate population.

A second entity, C‑ROB, has been tasked by the Legislature with conducting reviews of designated rehabilitation programs operated by Corrections, including reviewing "the effectiveness of treatment efforts." However, C‑ROB is not structured or staffed adequately to determine whether these programs are effective at reducing recidivism. C‑ROB is an 11‑member board that includes state officials, such as the inspector general serving as chair, the secretary of Corrections, and the state superintendent of public instruction, as well as university faculty members and local law enforcement representatives. State law requires C‑ROB to meet at least twice a year and to examine the various Corrections rehabilitation programs for inmates and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature, including the effectiveness of treatment efforts and the assessed rehabilitation needs of the inmates, among other topics. Although state lawmakers provided initial funding of $517,000 to the Inspector General to support C‑ROB, which allowed the Inspector General to hire two C‑ROB support staff, they discontinued this funding in 2011.

Officials from the Inspector General's office explained that, despite the loss of designated resources, the Inspector General has continued to support C‑ROB by absorbing certain administrative expenses into its own budget and by having its staff work on C‑ROB initiatives. According to these officials, Inspector General staff work on behalf of C‑ROB to conduct site visits to prisons and gather rehabilitation program data, which they use to create an annual report given to C‑ROB for approval. For example, Inspector General staff collected data for C‑ROB on Corrections' rehabilitation programming enrollment and capacity from June 2016 through June 2018 to analyze how effectively Corrections fills spots for its rehabilitation programs. Similar to our own analysis, the Inspector General found low inmate enrollment. However, with a recent 42 percent budget reduction in the Inspector General's budget, we do not believe it would be reasonable to assume that the Inspector General could support an effort by C‑ROB to use its authority to examine whether Corrections' rehabilitation programs are effective. Rather, as outlined in the next section, C‑ROB—with limited support from Inspector General staff—could provide oversight of Corrections' efforts to complete and report the results of a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs.

Oversight Is Necessary to Ensure That Corrections Evaluates the Effectiveness of Its Rehabilitation Programs

The Legislature, Corrections, and C‑ROB must work in concert to determine the extent to which rehabilitation programs are reducing recidivism and are cost‑effective. We did not identify any law or regulation requiring Corrections to establish performance measures, track how well it meets those goals, or conduct any analysis to determine whether its adult, in‑prison rehabilitation programs are effective at reducing recidivism. Further, there is no executive branch oversight entity specifically responsible for ensuring that Corrections performs any of these activities. However, the Legislature can require Corrections to undertake these endeavors and report on its progress annually. In addition, C‑ROB has the expertise to oversee Corrections' rehabilitation programs to ensure that Corrections contracts with an external researcher, develops appropriate targets for its rehabilitation programs, and issues reports about its progress on an annual basis. As noted earlier, because Corrections began to offer programs in all prisons in fiscal year 2016–17, the recidivism data necessary to conduct an analysis will not exist until fiscal year 2020–21. Thus, we believe a three‑year plan—beginning in fiscal year 2019–20—would provide ample time for Corrections and its external researcher to collect, analyze, and report on whether its programs are effective. Figure 7 summarizes our recommendations in this area.

Figure 7
These Actions Will Improve the Oversight and Accountability of Corrections' Rehabilitation Programs

A chart highlighting our recommended interactions between the Legislature, Corrections, C-ROB, and external researchers to improve oversight and accountability of Corrections' rehabilitation programs.

Source: State Auditor's recommendations to the Legislature, Corrections, and C‑ROB.

Although C‑ROB does not currently conduct extensive oversight to determine the effectiveness of Corrections' rehabilitation programs, with additional resources and statutory authority, it could be well positioned to conduct this oversight. As noted earlier, the Inspector General currently provides the staff support for C‑ROB. Thus, under a similar staffing model, C‑ROB could work with the Inspector General's staff to monitor Corrections' evaluation of the effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs, including monitoring Corrections' contract with an external researcher tasked with conducting a systematic evaluation of all rehabilitation programs. In addition, C‑ROB could work with the Inspector General's staff to monitor Corrections' efforts to develop and meet annual recidivism targets. According to the C‑ROB chief counsel, C‑ROB could monitor Corrections' progress in meeting its performance targets and Corrections' contracting process with an external researcher, but would require additional statutory authority. State law also currently requires C‑ROB to issue an annual report to the Legislature that includes findings on the effectiveness of treatment efforts; however C‑ROB's chief counsel noted that additional resources for the Inspector General would be necessary for its staff to report the results of the monitoring to C‑ROB for inclusion in its annual legislative report. Regardless of the entity given funding and authority, Corrections requires oversight to ensure that it takes necessary steps to evaluate the effectiveness of its rehabilitation programs at reducing recidivism.



To ensure that Corrections' rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism, the Legislature should require Corrections to do the following:

Year One: Fiscal Year 2019–20

Corrections drafts scope of work, selects an external researcher to conduct the analysis, defines what data elements the researchers may require, and creates targets.

Year Two: Fiscal Year 2020–21

External researcher conducts recidivism analysis and Corrections develops and begins implementing a corrective action plan.

Year Three: Fiscal Year 2021–22

Corrections modifies as necessary and continues implementing its corrective action plan. It also reports to the Legislature and creates new targets and policies given the results of the recidivism analysis. Depending upon the results of the analysis, Corrections eliminates or modifies programs that prove ineffective.

To ensure that Corrections and its external researcher conduct a comprehensive analysis of the rehabilitation programs' effect on recidivism, the Legislature should provide authority and funding for C‑ROB to monitor the contracting process and provide progress updates to the Legislature in its annual report.

To ensure that Corrections remains on track to complete its analysis and develop performance targets, the Legislature should require C‑ROB to monitor Corrections' progress in developing appropriate recidivism targets and meeting those targets, and to provide annual updates on Corrections' progress in implementing the three‑year plan.

To ensure that Corrections and EDD can collaborate effectively to track whether inmates that received vocational training found work in a related field after release, the Legislature should amend state law to explicitly allow Corrections to provide inmates' Social Security numbers to EDD.


To ensure that Corrections effectively and efficiently allocates resources and reduces recidivism, it should do the following:

To ensure that it has reliable tools to measure program fidelity in its CBT programs, Corrections should implement UC Irvine's recommendation by June 2019.

To ensure that its vocational training programs are effectively preparing inmates for the workforce upon their release and reducing recidivism, Corrections should collaborate with EDD to track the employment and the industry of employment for former inmates by January 2020.


To ensure that Corrections is taking steps to reduce recidivism, C‑ROB should monitor whether Corrections is developing appropriate recidivism targets and, in its annual report, should evaluate Corrections' progress toward meeting those targets.

We conducted this audit under the authority vested in the California State Auditor by Government Code 8543 et seq. and according to generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives specified in the Scope and Methodology section of the report. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor

January 31, 2019


5 We excluded programs designed for inmates serving lengthy periods of incarceration, such as life with the possibility of parole. Go back to text

6 Corrections assesses crime risk based on an inmate's CSRA score, which produces a risk number that predicts the likelihood that an offender will recidivate for a certain type of crime. Go back to text

7 Corrections' contracts allow it to require vendors to use curricula that is not evidence based. However, Corrections did not exercise this option for any of the CBT curricula we reviewed or discussed in this report. Go back to text

8 We excluded programs designed for inmates serving lengthy periods of incarceration, such as life with the possibility of parole. Go back to text

9 Corrections contracts with third‑party vendors to provide inmate programming for its CBT programs, which do not use Corrections staff. According to the Blueprint Monitoring Report, these CBT programs are largely operational and vendors were operating all but a small number of CBT classes. According to the deputy director, it would be cost prohibitive for Corrections to create and fund state positions for supervision and lower‑level facilitators for its CBT programs. Go back to text

10 We could not calculate the enrollment rates for volunteer programs because Corrections does not adequately track this information. Go back to text

11 This amount includes $3 million for innovative grants and $8 million for programs associated with the California Arts Council. Go back to text

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