In response to several news media stories regarding an advocacy group having its volunteer privileges revoked by the Contra Costa County Sheriffs Office, the Sheriffs office issued the following statement.
According to one report, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) had their clearance revoked after the sheriffs department stated it had violated policies:
Revocation of Clearance for CIVIC Group
All volunteer groups that interact with the Office of the Sheriff incarcerated population and/or Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees must agree to the rules set forth in the Detention Facility Clearance Request. These cover: Harassment and Discrimination, Treatment of Offenders and Non-Fraternization, Code of Conduct/Ethics/Confidentiality
Agreement and Custody Services Bureau Guidelines for Volunteers. Specific rules for volunteers include: must not engage in undue familiarity with inmates or family and friends of in-mates; must not contact or correspond with an inmate or their family; must not take or send messages or items on behalf of an inmate; and must not trade, barter, lend or engage in any personal transactions with any inmate.
Every volunteer must take a class that covers the guidelines and safety for civilians in the detention facility. They also sign an agreement and are warned that clearance will be revoked if they violate any of the rules.
During an investigation, it was discovered Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) volunteers repeatedly violated rules by:
- Providing their personal phone numbers and addresses to incarcerated persons.
- Relaying messages to family and friends of incarcerated persons.
- Receiving phone calls and mail from incarcerated persons.
- Sending contraband to incarcerated persons.
- Depositing money into the accounts of incarcerated persons.
The investigation found approximately 20 CIVIC volunteers repeatedly violated the rules for an extended period. On March 5, 2018, CIVIC’s clearance was revoked, but like other groups that lose their clearance, they can appeal. CIVIC has not invoked its right to appeal. Access for other some other organizations is currently being reviewed for possible violations.
“The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff welcomes and partners with numerous community-based organizations and non-governmental groups to assist incarcerated person with their rehabilitation and re-entry back to their communities when they are released,” said Assistant Sheriff Matt Schuler. “While CIVIC’s clearance was revoked, we continue to partner with numerous community and volunteer groups that provide needed services and resources to incarcerated persons.”
There are currently over 20 programs available to the incarcerated population at West County Detention Facility. Many of the programs are run by volunteers from community-based organizations.