Valley State Prison for Women VSPW Inmate Family Council IFC Minutes of Meeting

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Valley State Prison for Women VSPW Inmate Family Council IFC Minutes of Meeting Powered By Docstoc
					                                   Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW)
                                        Inmate Family Council (IFC)
                                        Minutes of Meeting with Staff
                                                August 7, 2009

Members Present: Chairperson V. Abrunzo, E. Muniz, Secretary J. Erb, Co-Chair V. Doran, J.
                        Walthall
Excused Absence: D. Brown
Staff Present:   T. Hornbeak, P. Virk, J. Hazelwood, C. Etchebehere, N. Schertz, M. Burns,
                 J. Neeley,
                 L. Lucero, J. Anderson, P. Untalon,
Guests Present:  None

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Abrunzo at 13:10.

Current Meeting Agenda items:

1.      THE VISITATION APPOINTMENT PROGRAM:
        The IFC complimented VSPW staff for developing such an excellent visitation program. IFC
        commented that other prisons have tried variations in the visiting routine but none have been as
        successful as VSPW. The IFC members, in general, very much appreciate the change and
        improvement.
        NOTE TO READERS: The IFC website (www.vspw-ifc.com) has information on the new
        visiting process, times and the number to call for a reservation.
        NOTE TO READERS RE CANCELLATIONS: We encourage those using the new process to
        call if they cannot make a scheduled appointment, and remind them that staff keeps track of
        appointments that are scheduled for which there are no appearances..

2.      MEDICAL RELEASE FORM:
-       Dr. Virk presented the new medial release form and said it would be released around the 1st of
        September. He also stated there would be a dedicated telephone line (Medical Hotline) for
        family members to call and check on the status of their loved ones about September 1, 20091.
        Family members could get information as long as the inmate had a medical release
        authorization signed and on file identifying the caller as authorized to obtain such medical
        information. Everyone felt this was a good step in improving communications between family
        and prison medical staff. It was a little unclear how an approved person would be identified
        over the phone. The prison has very strict HIPPA regulations they must follow. Snags in the
        process will have to be worked out as this procedure develops. It is noted that the forms
        provided by Dr. Virk were different than the forms and procedures provided by the Receiver’s
        Offices; and a request for further clarification has been submitted.



1
  The proposed system would be to leave a message on the Hotline, Identifying yourself and your callback number, the
inmate, the inmate’s CDCR number and the information that was being sought. Staff would then confirm the medical
release authorization, review the record for the information sought and return the phone call.
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                 Valley State Prison for Women, Inmate Family Council
                     Minutes of Meeting With Staff, August 7, 2009
                                        Page 1 of 4
3.   INMATE WELFARE FUNDS (IWF):
     A.      Canteen Restrictions - The IFC has been told, by inmates or relatives of inmates, that
     canteen inventory stock is very low. VSPW staff denied any inventory reduction and claimed
     inventory levels are not low and canteen orders are being processes as usual. They did state
     that furlough days (3 a month) may have slowed orders a little but staff is trying to make up for
     the furlough days.

     B.      Lack of Inmate Benefits from use of Surplus Inmate Welfare Funds – IFC members
     believe there is a lot more that can be done with Inmate Welfare Funds. There is a statewide
     surplus investment of over 10 million dollars and very little goes back to the inmates except in
     the way of restocking canteen items. VSPW staff had very little say into the use of Inmate
     Welfare Funds. The IFC is welcome to make suggestion. One of the deciding criteria is that
     the funds be used to benefit all inmates. Staff acknowledged that they had been contacted by
     headquarters after Mr. Abrunzo contacted the IWF representative there. A request for IFC
     input in the budgeting process has been made at both levels and headquarters is researching the
     use of the funds for postsecondary education.

     C.      The IFC noted that the last reported audit of the IWF reflected that of the $295,526 of
     “Income from Operating Activity”, over $200,000 (67.9409%) was expended for
     “Administrative Expense”. This appeared to be well beyond a reasonable percentage for
     “expenses that are not as easily associated with a specific function as are direct costs of
     manufacturing and selling. It typically includes expenses of the headquarters office and
     accounting expenses.” Accordingly, Mr. Abrunzo asked if this included the costs of providing
     such services as Friends Outside and the Chowchilla Family Express. Staff was unfamiliar with
     this issue and agreed to follow-up. Once again, VSPW staff reminded us that the use of IWF is
     a CDCR administrative decision and not up to VSPW.

     D.      The need for repairs for the Hobbycraft Kiln: It was noted to staff that the kiln in
     Hobbycraft was inoperable again. Since this is yet another piece of equipment that provides
     both an artistic outlet for the inmates and a source of income for the IWF, why isn’t the IWF
     surplus being used to make the required repairs. It was further noted that several visitors have
     offered to contribute to repairs if the funds could be guaranteed to go for that purpose. The
     Warden indicated that she thought repairs had already been made. Staff will investigate and
     report back.

4.   TRACS:
     TRACS is the new inmate accounting and canteen system. This was partially funded by IWF
     and VSPW was the pilot for the software implementation. VSPW staff reported that the system
     is working well and inmates are issued monthly statements. Some IFC members had heard that
     statements were not being distributed. VSPW staff assured the IFC that statements are issued
     monthly. Sometimes, due to inmate housing changes, it could take a statement longer to get to
     the inmate. Other than a couple of one time exceptions, like uploading the J-pay statement, the
     system seems to be performing well.



__________________________________________________________________________________
                 Valley State Prison for Women, Inmate Family Council
                     Minutes of Meeting With Staff, August 7, 2009
                                        Page 2 of 4
5.      ARSENIC LEVELS IN THE WATER AT VSPW:
        VSPW wells indicated an arsenic level above the local County acceptable levels. The local
        County standard acceptable level is less than 10 parts per billion. VSPW had fluctuating
        readings maybe as high as 11 parts per billion. The federal acceptable level is 50 parts per
        billion which is much higher that what was noted at VSPW. Arsenic in a naturally occurring
        substance found in ground water tables among other places. VSPW reacted appropriately by
        putting up warning notices and re-evaluating their wells. They have been working close with
        County environmental staff to resolve that problem. The main well was dug 100 feet deeper
        and a new pump was installed. Currently arsenic levels are close to 9 parts per billion.
        However, until they have some more history of low levels they will keep up the signs in the
        visiting areas. VSPW was serious about addressing this problem quickly.2

6.      DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS DAY
        Some IFC members were invited to this event, prepared handouts and planned on attending this
        event in the prison yard but were denied the ability to participate only two days before the
        event. VSPW staff explained that this event’s purpose, and the IFC stated goal of recruiting
        more family members for the IFC did not appear to be sufficiently related. The IFC replied that
        it saw the further involvement of families in the IFC as an example of productive and positive
        family relationships. Mr. Abrunzo suggested, without opposition, that perhaps in the future,
        more communication between the IFC and staff would avoid the misunderstanding and hoped
        that the IFC would be considered for this event in the future.

7.      NEW APPLICATIONS FOR IFC MEMBERSHIP:
        The IFC has received three new membership applications. All have been approved by the
        Warden and were invited to attend this meeting. Only one potential member showed up, and
        one reported that the notice was too short to obtain leave from her employer. The IFC has 10
        spaces for active members and 10 alternates; we still have room for more active members. It is
        a good way to stay in touch with the life our loved ones are living and to have a voice. Plus, we
        believe that staff will agree that the meetings have been productive.

8.      GET ON THE BUS:
        The IFC wanted to follow-up with staff in regard to their participation as the Hospitality Team,
        greeting the busses, and led by V. Doran. Staff reported that VSPW Get on the Bus program
        went very well, and had no concerns or suggestions for the Hospitality Team for the alternate
        Mother’s day event. The actual event on Mother’s day had been postponed due to swine flu
        issues. A number of children were able to visit their mother’s, children who do not have other
        means to visit. This is a very meaningful event and is only accomplished by dedicated
        volunteers and dedicated prison staff.3 The IFC thanked Mary Anderson of Friends Outside
        for providing services in connection with Get On The Bus. It was noted that Ms. Anderson was
        offering clothing changes and other services when the center at CCWF was closed. Her
        continuing support is appreciated.

2
  It was noted that the following day in Visiting, signs warning of the levels of arsenic in the water were posted
over the water fountains.
3
  Families who want further information may visit www.getonthebus.us on the internet.
__________________________________________________________________________________
                 Valley State Prison for Women, Inmate Family Council
                     Minutes of Meeting With Staff, August 7, 2009
                                        Page 3 of 4
9.     CHOWCHILLA FAMILY EXPRESS:
        IFC noted that the Chowchilla Family Express (CFE) had apparently been cancelled due to
       CDCR budget cuts. IFC requested information on how CFE was funded, and when we might
       see the program revived4.

NOTES:
♦    The Inmate Family Council Members felt this was another productive and positive meeting,
     and were especially pleased to be meeting again with Warden Tina Hornbeak. We appreciate
     the attention and research that the VSPW staff put into the agenda items.
♦    The agenda item about the Friends Outside facility being closed was not addressed as the
     facility has since re-opened.
♦    Staff reported that mail was current, and that we should be keeping aware of the Notice of
     changes to the D.O.M. to be aware of new rules for mail. If there are identifiable instances of
     unusual delays in the mail, the IFC would appreciate documentation.
♦    Warden Hornbeak alerted the IFC that with the substantial budget cutbacks and staff being
     furloughed for three days per month, more delays were inevitable.
♦    The IFC submitted to staff some proposed amendments to the Application for IFC membership,
     and will post the new application on VSPW-IFC.com when it is approved.
♦    IFC noted that the furlough days appeared to conflict with the IFC meeting s of the first Friday
     of each month, and asked if a change was required. Staff reported that no change was
     recommended at this date.
♦    IFC welcomed the participation of new member J. Walthall.

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 14:20.

The next IFC meeting with staff is scheduled for October 2, 2009 @ 1:00 p.m.


                                      2009 Meeting Schedule
February      6                                  August           7
April         3                                  October          2
June          5                                  December         4



QUESTIONS, CONCERNS OR COMMENTS REGARDING THE ACTIVITY OR REPORTING OF
     THE INMATE FAMILY COUNCIL MAY BE COMMUNICATED TO THE IFC BY:
                                 E-MAIL AT:
                            WWW.VSPW-IFC.COM
                                    OR
                     UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE AT:
      ATTN: VSPW-IFC, POST OFFICE BOX 4193, WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA 91359



4
 Families who want further information may visit www.familyexpress.us on the internet.
__________________________________________________________________________________
                    Valley State Prison for Women, Inmate Family Council
                         Minutes of Meeting With Staff, August 7, 2009
                                           Page 4 of 4

				
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