On September 8, 2020 and March 11, 2021, in Armstrong v. Newsom, 94-2304 (N.D. Cal.), Judge Claudia Wilken issued two orders intended to stop officers in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) from abusing and discriminating against people with disabilities. The Court found that systemic abuses against incarcerated people with disabilities at six prisons—R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (San Diego, CA), CSP – Los Angeles County (Lancaster, CA), CSP – Corcoran (Corcoran, CA), Kern Valley State Prison (Delano, CA), Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (Corcoran, CA), and California Institution for Women (Corona, CA)—violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and prior court orders. As a remedy, the Court required CDCR to develop plans to install security cameras and use body worn-cameras (BWCs), reform the staff investigation and disciplinary process, and increase supervisory staffing on all yards. BWCs and fixed security cameras are now operational and the additional sergeants have been staffed at all six prisons. The Court also appointed an expert to oversee implementation of the mandated reforms. Armstrong v. Newsom, 484 F. Supp. 3d 808 (N.D. Cal. 2020); Armstrong v. Newsom, 2021 WL 933106 (N.D. Cal. 2021).
Relatedly, on July 30, 2020, the Court entered a preliminary injunction to protect two incarcerated people with disabilities from being retaliated against by prison guards. Officers attacked and threatened both people because they had previously reported to RBGG lawyers that officers had abused other incarcerated people with disabilities. The Court ordered that CDCR transfer these two witnesses from the prison where they had faced assault, threats and other retaliation. Armstrong v. Newsom, 475 F. Supp. 3d 1038 (N.D. Cal. 2020).
In March 2022, after eighteen months of negotiations with CDCR and the Court ruling in Plaintiffs’ favor on two sets of objections to CDCR’s proposal, CDCR finalized the remedial plans to comply with the Court’s orders. As part of the remedial plans, CDCR must overhaul its staff misconduct investigation and discipline process to better hold staff accountable for violating the rights of incarcerated people with disabilities. Those reforms will begin to be implemented at the six prisons in June 2022 and will be implemented at all CDCR prisons by mid-2023. CDCR must also produce to us and to the Court Expert staff misconduct investigation files so that we can monitor if CDCR is complying with the remedial plans and if the changes to the system will result in increased transparency and accountability.
In addition, in response to our litigation, CDCR has plans to install fixed surveillance cameras at all of its 34 prisons by the mid-2024 and to implement body-worn cameras at four additional prisons by mid-2023 (California Correctional Women’s Facility (Chowchilla), CSP – Sacramento (Folsom), Salinas Valley State Prison (Soledad), California Correctional Institution (Tehachapi).