Inmates on lockdown after violence
By Denny Boyles
(Updated Thursday, April 22, 2004, 7:33 AM)
More than 2,100 inmates at Corcoran State Prison are on a modified lockdown after an assault on two correctional officers March 13 and a riot between prison gang members April 1.
Sabrina Johnson, spokeswoman for the prison, said the lockdown is necessary while officials investigate the incidents. The lockdown has reduced or in some cases eliminated yard, canteen and visitation privileges for the maximum-security inmates. The lockdown does not affect all 5,157 inmates.
"We estimate that only 30% to 40% of the inmates in the affected facilities would regularly receive visitors, and there are areas of the prison that have not been affected by this lockdown," Johnson said.
Johnson said investigators are working to determine whether there is a link between the assault and the riot.
On March 13, inmate Frank Johnson attacked two correctional officers after being warned about having contact with his visitors during visitation hours. Johnson attacked one officer, then used that officer's baton to strike a second officer. The attack sent both officers to the hospital. The visiting center was closed.
The riot, which involved more than 200 inmates with suspected gang ties, occurred in a different area of the prison.
"The disturbance involved a number of factions of prisoners, and we are looking at what caused the riot and who may have instigated or planned the riot," Sabrina Johnson said.
She said officials are slowly modifying the lockdown as the investigation continues.
"In keeping with the safety and security of our staff and the inmates, we are slowly modifying the program, trying to get things back to normal as quickly and safely as possible," she said.
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Corcoran Inmate Starves to Death
February 20, 2004
FRESNO — An elderly prison inmate in Corcoran starved to death last week without medical or corrections staff recognizing that he had begun the last of several hunger strikes, authorities said.
Officials with the state Department of Corrections said the death of 72-year-old Khem Singh, who was so emaciated that he weighed less than 80 pounds, came as a surprise to staff at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran. He was not being monitored at the time for weight or fluid loss, officials said.
"The whole issue is being investigated," said Margot Bach, a corrections spokeswoman. "If you're on a food or hunger strike, certain protocols must be followed. Was there any way this could have been prevented? That's the question."
Singh, a Sikh priest from India who settled in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Ceres and spoke little English, had been sentenced to 23 years for inappropriately touching a young girl. He had been visiting her house to give her Sikh religious lessons.
Behind bars, the priest protested his innocence and refused to see family members or eat a diet that didn't conform to his cultural practices, officials said.
"He came to prison in August of 2001 and he's been on and off hunger strikes ever since," Bach said. "He spent most of his time in his cell and didn't make his appointments with medical staff."
A corrections administrator who asked not to be named said that Singh's death was the result of "deliberate indifference" by the prison staff. "It is inexcusable that an inmate could starve to death with all the medical policies and procedures that are mandated by the courts. It absolutely should never happen," he said.
Because Singh was a sex offender, he was being housed for his own safety at the substance abuse facility, which sits adjacent to Corcoran State Prison and is considered a less hostile environment.
Kings County Coroner Rene Hanavan said Singh died Saturday of heart and lung failure due to "self-imposed starvation." Singh, who stood 5-foot-6, hadn't been placed on any special watch or given any special fluids despite being severely emaciated, he said.
"It appears that the starvation was on and off for a three-month period," Hanavan said. "He had to be drinking or eating something during that time because, if not, he would have died a lot sooner."
Corrections investigators will try to determine if medical neglect played a role in Singh's death, officials said.
In a related case, Kings County prosecutors are continuing to investigate a Feb. 1 incident at Corcoran State Prison in which a 58-year-old inmate on dialysis was allowed to bleed to death in his cell during the Super Bowl.
Corcoran prison guard arrested in alleged murder-for-hire plot
Thursday, February 19, 2004
(02-19) 04:29 PST CORCORAN, Calif. (AP) --
A guard at Corcoran State Prison was arrested on suspicion of conspiring with an inmate to use drugs to pay someone outside the prison to kill her husband.
Linda Brock, 43, had a sexual relationship with the inmate in recent months and the two eventually developed the unsuccessful murder-for-hire scheme, authorities said.
Corrections investigators and county authorities arrested Brock on Saturday at the prison, and later found more than a pound of marijuana and 7 ounces of heroin at her Bakersfield home.
Prosecutors said Brock and the inmate, who they did not identify, also organized a separate unsuccessful plot in which she would smuggle in knives the inmate was to use to kill rival gang members.
Brock faces charges including solicitation of murder, sex with an inmate, conspiracy to commit a crime, and offering to distribute a controlled substance, said Kings County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hart. Brock was held on $500,000 bail.
The inmate involved in the case likely won't be charged and may be used as a witness against Brock, Hart said.
Corcoran State Prison has been troubled in recent years with a number of incidents that have prompted calls for reform at prisons statewide from lawmakers and activists.
On Feb. 1, a 60-year-old inmate pulled a dialysis shunt from his arm and bled to death in his cell. A news report said prison guards busy watching the Super Bowl ignored his cries for help. Eight prison guards accused of staging gladiator-style fights among inmates were acquitted of civil rights violations in 2000.
©2004 Associated Press
Corcoran prison abuses alleged
By Cindy Carcamo
A prisoner-advocacy group issued a report this week blasting Corcoran
State Prison officials for allegedly abusing prisoners, alleging staff
misconduct, medical neglect and health and safety violations.
"In our view, Corcoran has always been the most troubled prison in the system," said Corey Weinstein, a board member for San Francisco-based California Prison Focus.
Terry Thornton, a California Department of Corrections spokeswoman in Sacramento, said the advocacy group has its facts wrong and failed to conduct enough research.
"We feel the whole report is irresponsible," Thornton said. "They're all allegations with no substance."
The report stated that prisoners described verbal abuse, threats of physical abuse, assaults and harassment by guards.
"Guards resort to baiting inmates into punishable actions, use derogatory remarks, sexually explicit language, profanity, racial epithets, reference to individual's family members and name-calling," the report states.
One unnamed prisoner told an interviewer, "The guards don't threaten you with violence anymore; they provoke you into it. It's your word against theirs, and they can always doctor the books."
In January, the report states, guards knowingly allowed an armed prisoner into the cell of an inmate who was then stabbed 17 times and staff did not intervene.
Another unnamed inmate, described in the report as a transgender woman with HIV and hepatitis C, said she is consistently harassed by guards and staff members in her unit who call her "queer and fag" and berate her for "faking" her illnesses.
California Prison Focus' Weinstein said Corcoran has a legacy of murder by inmates because of staff misconduct.
"The staff is resistant and too difficult to manage," Weinstein said. "They don't want to follow rules and follow orders."
He added that Corcoran management should investigate and develop a zero-tolerance policy for staff members who don't follow the rules.
The prison gained notoriety when five inmates were killed by guard gunfire between 1988 and 1995. There has also been a spate of recent stabbings at the Corcoran prison.
Thornton said prison officials at Corcoran and the state Department of Corrections will investigate the allegations made in the report. She added, however, that the report fails to name the complaining prisoners, making the allegations difficult to investigate.
Among other complaints in the report is that some inmates did not receive urgent and timely medical care.
"Medication is interrupted, and orders issued by medical staff are often not adhered to," the report said.
"In repeated instances, prisoners' requests for prescribed medication are denied."
The report alleges that non-medical staffers use their own discretion to determine whether a prisoner needs medical care. An unnamed inmate who died of cancer in March had complained about his symptoms, the report states.
"His complaints went unresponded to; had he been afforded treatment, his death might have been prevented or pain abated," according to the report.
The report adds that inmates are not being administered pain medication. In May, about 100 prisoners housed in the chronic infectious-disease unit for HIV-positive prisoners engaged in a medication strike, protesting the denial of pain medication, the report said.
A list of other grievances in the report includes mold accumulation and ant and rodent infestations in cells; allegations of discrimination against disabled prisoners; denial of due process for prisoners; inadequate diet and food tampering; and lack of mental-health care in the security housing unit.
Thornton said the state Department of Corrections has worked with the advocacy group in the past and has addressed the group's complaints.
"If they do care, hopefully they'll work with us on this rather than throwing out allegations like this," Thornton said. "Much of what inmate-advocacy groups want, we want -- to run our prisons safely and humanely."
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 622-2419.
November 12, 2003
My name is Mark Stephen Smith Jr. and I'm currently in Corcoran State Prison on a 180 yard.
I have been a level III since 2001 here on a level IV maximum security facility. In the year 2001, on August 13, I was beaten up by correctional officers resulting in the end me being in a wheelchair.
I have not received any medical treatments, physical therapy, medicine for pain, my face swells up when it gets cold and my nerves are so bad that it's hard for me to take a bowel movement.
I have a lawsuit pending. My family wrote leters asking them to tell them what's going on but they wrote back in a taunting way and said "NO!"
I have been denied transfer 28 times by CCI Wiggins, Acting Captain Granosa, orders made by the Warden Darrel G. Adams and Captain Padrone.
I'm still a level III after all this time, currently in a wheelchair under the same conditions, my life is in danger. Please help.
My attorney's name is
Mark Stephen Smith Sr.
The attorney who handled my case is Carl E. Douglas.
I also have been recently beaten by police. Today I tried to contact someone but they've cut off all my lines of communication. I really need your help.
They are plotting to kill me and I have proof, this is an emergency and I don't have a lot of time left.
There are three more that are going through the same thing.
With Endless Respect for You and what you do!!!
I remain humble
Mark Stephen Smith, Jr.