1998 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article. 
Go to next article. 
Return to 1998 Conference Table of Contents 


Author: Ken Hurdle
Ombudsman California State Prison


In the Fall of 1995, the California Department of Corrections (CDC) established the Disability Placement Plan (DPP), the goal of which was to lay out a preliminary system for housing and programming inmates with disabilities requiring specialized placement consideration, assess that system to identify and address both programmatic and structural issues, assess operational and cost concerns, and to address the need for standardization of departmental policy and procedures relative to inmates with disabilities.

This program selects "designated" facility sites for the placement of qualifying inmates/parolees with permanent mobility impairments, hearing impairments, visual impairments, and speech impairments of such severity as to impact placement needs.

The DPP is a continuation of the CDC policy of providing inmates and parolees with appropriate housing and program opportunities without regard to disability.


The four disability categories covered in the DPP project are:

Permanent Mobility Impairments:

Permanent Wheelchair-Medical - Inmates/parolees with permanent medical conditions (a condition expected to last longer than six months) who use a wheelchair due a permanent disability and who are currently housed or require placement in a medical bed because of a medical condition.

Permanent Wheelchair-Mental Health - Inmates/parolees with a wheelchair due to a permanent disability and need placement in a facility that provides mental health services.

Permanent Wheelchair - Inmates/parolees who are in wheelchairs due to permanent disability, require little or no medical assistance, are able to manage their own activities of daily living, and are able to live in an accessible general population setting. Permanent Mobility Impaired (non-wheelchair): Inmates/parolees who do not require a wheelchair but who have a permanent lower extremity mobility impairment that substantially limits walking.

Permanent Hearing Impairments:

Inmates/parolees who are permanently deaf or have a permanent hearing impairment so severe that they must rely on written communication, lip reading, or signing.

Permanent Vision Impairments:

Inmates/parolees who are permanently blind or have vision impairment not correctable to central vision acuity of less than 20/200, even with corrective lenses.

Permanent Speech Impairments:

Inmates/parolees who have a permanent speech impairment, and do not communicate effectively in writing.

Inmates/parolees with a disability other than those specified above are evaluated based upon a case-by-case review by a classification committee and physician's recommendation.

Inmates/parolees with temporary or less severe disabilities can be provided modifications in the general population and do not require designated DPP placement.


Reception Centers - Most Reception Center facilities have been designed to provide for the temporary housing and processing needs of inmates/parolees identified as meeting DPP criteria. Institutions - The following ten institutions have been designated for permanent placement and housing of inmates/parolees identified as meeting DPP criteria.

Parole Facilities - Currently, three Community Correctional Reentry Centers have been designed for the placement and housing of inmates identified as meeting DPP criteria: Ed Veit in Sacramento, Volunteers of America in Oakland, and West Marvin Gardens, Los Angeles.


It is necessary to verify that a permanent disability exists that is consistent with the established DPP criteria before transferring an inmate/parolee to a DPP designated institution/facility for inclusion in the DPP program. This process does not require the automatic screening of all inmates/parolees to identify disabilities, but is intended to ensure standardization of CDC policy and procedure for the verification of a disability. Self- disclosure, medical records, or staff observation during intake generally identifies inmates/parolees. This verification is documented on a CDC Form 1845, Inmate/Parolee with Disabilities Verification Form.


The Disability Placement Program inmates/parolees are tracked at the departmental and local institution/facility levels. Departmentally, inmates/parolees assigned to DPP categories are tracked in the Classification Tracking System database. At the local

level, each institution/facility maintains a census of all DPP identified inmates housed within their facility. This information is provided to the Classification Services Unit.


Reception Center Processing Policies and Procedures

General Policy - DPP inmates/parolees are processed out of Reception Centers in a timely manner, but no longer than 90 days from the date of receipt by CDC, unless CDC is precluded from transferring the inmate due to factors beyond its control (i.e. medical emergencies, out-to-court).

Institutions/Facilities Policies and Procedures

Safety and Security - The Department's institutions are required to provide reasonable modifications for the known physical or mental limitations of qualified inmates/parolees with permanent disabilities in a manner consistent with ensuring that the safety and/or security of staff, inmates/parolees, or the public is maintained. Legitimate safety and security concerns take precedence over any modifications afforded inmates/parolees with disabilities and may result in the temporary or permanent suspension of any such modifications for cause.

General Identification/Notification Procedures

Yard Identification - Whenever a hearing and/or visually-impaired inmate is assigned to an institution or facility he/she will be issued a bright yellow vest to be worn for the purposes of identification in the event of an emergency. Also, a copy of the ID card/picture for these inmates is maintained with the inmate roster in the unit office or control booth to alert unit staff.

Notices and Announcements - Notices and announcements are made accessible to disabled inmates at DPP institutions. Reasonable modifications inclusive of large print, computer assistive devices, audio tapes, or Braille may be used if necessary.

Special Identification/Notification - DPP designated institutions are required to develop policy and procedures to address and provide for the effective identification and notification of inmates/parolees with disabilities.

Movement and Count - Each institution and facility is required to review paths of travel and establish designated accessible controlled movement routes for inmates with disabilities during daylight and darkness. If there is a verified condition that prohibits a DPP inmate from standing during count, a reasonable modification may be made for the inmate.

Inmate Disciplinary Process - The inmate disciplinary process for DPP inmates is consistent with the procedures for non-disabled inmates with reasonable modifications being provided depending on the nature of the disability. In due process communications, an enhanced standard will be met to ensure that the communication is understood. This may include the provision of a Staff Assistant/Investigative employee.

Inmate Services and Activities

DPP inmates are provided reasonable modifications as necessary to ensure access to inmate services and activities in a manner consistent with their custody and privilege group designation.

Telephone - Assistive device telephones and additional time on telephones may be necessary to meet the needs of inmates and their callers with disabilities. Inmates have access to TDD and TDD/Voice Relay Service.

Visiting - The Department's visiting policy allows for reasonable modifications for DPP inmates. Inmates are allowed "contact," "non-contact," and "family visits" with a reasonable effort made to provide for the assistance needs of the inmate on a case-by-case basis.

Recreation - Each institution provides a recreation and physical education program that maximizes the inmate's effective participation under safe and secure conditions. Appeals Process - Inmates/parolees with disabilities who need assistance to effectively use this process are provided reasonable modifications as needed.

Property - Approved health appliances and/or assistive devices are not included in the six cubic foot limitations established for inmate property.

Issuance of Assistive Devices or Property

When an inmate is received into the custody of CDC and has personal possession of assistive devices, the inmate may request to retain the device. Granting such a request will be based on the determination that the device can meet safety and security requirements or can be modified to meet those requirements. If the request is denied, the inmate may send the device home or donate it to any organization or person other than inmates or staff.

Inmate Programs

Evaluation of an inmate's eligibility for an institutional program assignment is done on a case-by-case basis. This takes into account the inmate's ability to perform the essential functions of the program.


To assure adequate transportation of inmates/parolees with disabilities, the special or particular needs of the inmate are taken into consideration and accessible means of transportation provided. Such transportation must include medical supports, assistive equipment, or social aids. No inmate can be transferred without his/her special aids or assistive equipment.

Go to previous article. 
Go to next article. 
Return to 1998 Conference Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings 

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.