(BOP) - The U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) for the Southern District of California honored Federal Bureau of Prisons staff and other law enforcement agencies during the fourth annual "Excellence in the Pursuit of Justice" Awards Ceremony last fall. The award recognizes "federal, state, and local law enforcement partners for extraordinary contributions to the Department of Justice mission."
MCC San Diego received this award for the "stellar work on inmate bookings/issues and compassionate release motions" performed by staff in the Correctional Systems Department (CSD) and the Legal Department. The Southern District of California did not fully shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic; court hearings were ongoing in 2020 and jury trials resumed in 2021. CSD and the Legal Department worked closely with the Southern District of California during critical times of the pandemic and both departments played integral roles in keeping up with criminal court docket proceedings.
This was accomplished early in 2020 with the CSD assisting in the transition from in-person court hearings to video teleconference (VTC) hearings. There were five active VTCs utilized for daily court calendar appearances. CSD staff made sure to separate inmates by their housing unit to reduce possible COVID-19 exposure. The CSD, in coordination with the US Marshals Service (USMS) and outside law enforcement, continued to intake new inmates, including those who tested positive for COVID. CSD worked with Pretrial Services and the Federal Public Defender's Office (FPDO) to complete interviews with new inmates daily and prior to their hearings. After the hearings, and with the assistance of Medical staff and Unit Teams, CSD staff were able to carefully move, and safely quarantine, the new inmates. In 2020 and 2021, CSD personnel handled 3,480 VTCs, of which 1,900 were initial appearances, and processed 2,060 intakes.
Also at the beginning of the pandemic, the Legal Department worked closely with Unit Management and Correctional Services in response to USAO offers of time-served sentences. The Legal Department worked diligently to accommodate the high demands of the Courts to issue immediate releases for several inmates. When it became necessary for in-person legal visits at the facility to be canceled, the Legal Department received authorization to install phones in the housing units, allowing for inmates to call the FPDO and other attorneys directly. The Legal Department staff scheduled the legal calls and assisted with inmate signatures for court documents on a daily basis. Additionally, the Legal Department successfully defended the institution against lawsuits about COVID-19 restrictions, including access to attorneys.
MCC San Diego staff (Warden Raul Campos, Jr.; Associate Wardens Natasha Mickens and Marlan Bacon; Supervisory Correctional Systems Specialist Natalie Laird; Senior Counsel Theresa Talplacido, and Case Management Coordinator Carlos Castillo Del Muro), along with Western Regional Counsel Dennis M. Wong, Supervisory Consolidated Legal Center Attorney Clay Cook, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Pettit accepted the award.
MCC San Diego is an administrative security metropolitan correctional center and houses pre-trial inmates for the Southern District of California. As an administrative facility, it houses inmates of all security levels; both male and female inmates in pre-trial and holdover status and male inmates designated to serve their sentence. The facility is located across the street from the U.S. Court House and Federal building. Its proximity to the border makes it unique from other pre-trial institutions since 65% of its population are non-U.S. citizens; the majority of the detainees come directly from the arresting agencies.