Folsom Prison - Sacramento  

Folsom Prison
California State Prison, Sacramento



A correctinal officer watches over central exercise yard at Folsom State Prison



See video of fight at Folsom Represa - 2008
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPZ-9U7BzPg 
 


 

Riot At Legendary Folsom Prison Involving 200 Inmates
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October 1, 2008 2:08 p.m. EST 

 
Linda Young - AHN Editor

Represa, CA (AHN) - A riot involving hundreds of inmates at the notorious Folsom Prison left seven prisoners injured and authorities are investigating.

Rioting broke out Tuesday night after fist fights that began between black inmates and white inmates in the exercise yard spread into two buildings, ultimately involving 200 people.

Guards used pepper spray to regain control, and the prison was put on lock down.

No staff members were injured, no weapons were found and guards don't yet know what started the brawl, according to reports.

Three injured inmates were transported on stretchers to area hospitals for treatment and the others were treated at the prison.

Folsom opened in 1880 and is the state's second oldest prison. It was designed to hold 2,065 inmates, but currently holds 4,023 medium-security inmates. It includes four general-population cell blocks, an administrative segregation unit, a minimum-security unit and a transitional treatment facility.



Print Date: Sunday, January 21, 2007

Last modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 12:54 PM PST 

Update: Three found dead in Broadstone home

By: Gloria Beverage

Folsom Police now believe three people found dead inside a Wembly Court residence last Wednesday morning were the victims of a murder/suicide.

Folsom Police officer Michelle Beattie explained officers received a call shortly after 7 a.m. from a co-worker reporting two staff members had failed to show up for work.

When they arrived at the residence, officers saw the body of a woman on the floor of the hallway. They forced entry into the home and found two other bodies.

By late Wednesday afternoon, Folsom Police reported they had found the bodies of two adult women and a man. All three had been shot to death. It appears the man sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Beattie said. No suicide note was left.

Folsom Prison Public Information Officer Lt. Dan Johnson confirmed two of the victims were Folsom Prison employees Bonnie June Lathum, 56, and Laurence Howard Moll, 57.

The third victim was Lathum's 31-year-old daughter, Teresa Faye Contreras. A resident of Southern California, she had apparently been living at the residence for the past month.

A medical technical assistant at Folsom Prison, Lathum had worked for the Department of Corrections for 19-1/2 years.

Although her primary responsibility was monitoring the health of the inmates, Lathum was also a police officer, Lt. Johnson explained. "She was one of the first-responders when we had an incident," he said.

He described Lathum as very outgoing and involved in union type activities.

Lt. Johnson also thought of her as the matriarch of the medical technical assistants working at both prisons. "People looked to her for advice," he said.

In addition to co-workers, who were understandably rattled, Lt. Johnson said many of the inmates were upset to hear of Lathum's death.

She is survived by a daughter, Katie Cortez.

Moll had worked as a correctional officer for the Department of Corrections for 21 years. He had recently transferred from California State Prison, Sacramento to Folsom Prison, Lt. Johnson said.

"He was very polite," he said. "I never heard a bad word said about him."

Lathum and Moll had been together for about six years. "They called each other their significant other," he continued. "Apparently they had known each other for 20 years, but had only been together for a few years."

Only a sister is listed as next of kin in Moll's employment file.

Prison inmates were placed in lockdown on Wednesday to allow staff time to focus on their loss.

"Things are a little hectic, but we have a good staff who are handling the horrible events," said Folsom Prison Warden Matthew Kramer on Thursday. "Our crisis response folks from the department have done an excellent job."

Although she wasn't very close to the family, neighbor Christine Rader was shaken by the tragedy. "We always felt very safe on the court," she said. "I'd let my kids go outside and play for a couple of hours and not worry about them."

Folsom's Animal Control Officer Cindy Walden picked up the couple's two Brittany Spaniels early Wednesday morning.

"They've been kenneled and will be kept safe until the family lets us know what they want to do," Walden said.

Investigators are continuing to talk with family and neighbors in an effort to determine the motive behind the murder-suicide.

The last homicide in Folsom was in 1999.



Prison reviews hostage incident
Folsom facility will investigate its policies after an inmate held a guard at knifepoint for 10 hours.
By Crystal Carreon -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, May 9, 2006

The "yard" at California State Prison, Sacramento - usually bustling with men lifting weights, playing handball or mowing the lawn - is deserted. So are the chapels, a mosque and dining halls.
This is what prison lockdown looks like: thousands of maximum-security inmates confined to their cinderblock cells all day, every day - and now, indefinitely - until authorities here feel it's safe to lift the restrictions after an inmate took a guard hostage over the weekend.

"We need a little time to breathe," spokeswoman Lt. Joyce McClendon said at the prison commonly called "New Folsom."

"We're not rushing into things; this is a day-to-day decision."

Prison officials, she said, have launched a wide-ranging assessment into how inmate and prison cook Michael David Watson, 41, managed to hold officer Sheila Mitchell, 47, captive at knifepoint for nearly 10 hours Saturday inside a dining hall office. McClendon declined to elaborate on what specifically was under review.

The ordeal, which ultimately ended peacefully, continued to raise questions Monday about how best to protect those who walk one of the most dangerous beats in law enforcement - guarding California's correctional population, one of the largest in the country.

"Safety is No. 1 is our eyes," said Chuck Alexander, executive vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, who was given frequent updates by prison management during the ordeal. "We have significant overcrowding issues across the state and significant staff vacancies across the state; those two issues are bad medicine."

Alexander, whose organization will ask to review the prison's assessment once done, said he would expect officials to look at whether the inmate was appropriately housed or whether more staffing could have been assigned for the dining hall area.

"Typically speaking, dining hall officers work alone these days," he said. Why? "To save money."

McClendon would not say Monday if other guards were in the hall or nearby when Mitchell, a nine-year veteran, was taken hostage.

The 5-foot-4 correctional officer was supervising an inmate work crew cleaning up after breakfast Saturday when Watson allegedly attacked her shortly after 7 a.m.

Watson, serving a 26-year sentence for first-degree robbery and false imprisonment from San Diego County, was seeing a psychiatrist regularly, prison officials said.

During the ordeal, he reportedly told hostage negotiators over the phone that he was unhappy because he had been fired from his cooking job; he asked for a transfer to another prison and an inventory of his property.

As a precaution, all of the 33 prisons across the state were placed on lockdown for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Terry Thornton, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman.

At 5:05 p.m. Saturday, Watson surrendered.

No other incidents were reported, and the statewide lockdown was lifted Sunday, Thornton said.

On Monday, Mitchell could not be reached for comment. McClendon said the officer, who is on administrative leave, will not be available for interviews.

Watson, meanwhile, was housed at a separate prison facility for mental health issues. Authorities declined to disclose the location.

Mitchell's ordeal marked the fifth hostage-taking at a state prison since 1995.

All of the incidents, officials said, have ended safely.
 
 

AT A GLANCE
What happened: Inmate Michael David Watson held officer Sheila Mitchell captive at knifepoint for several hours Saturday inside a dining hall office. The ordeal ended peacefully. 
Fallout: The incident continues to raise questions about how best to protect those who guard California's correctional population, one of the largest in the country.

What now? Prison officials have launched a wide-ranging assessment into how the hostage situation happened. The Folsom prison remained under lockdown Monday.
 

About the writer:
The Bee's Crystal Carreon can be reached at (916) 321-1203 or ccarreon@sacbee.com .



 mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/10306623.htm

Posted on Tue, Nov. 30, 2004 
 

'New Folsom' inmate killed by guard in stabbing incident

DON THOMPSON
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - A prison guard at California State Prison, Sacramento, fatally shot an inmate who was stabbing another inmate Tuesday, authorities said.

The guard fired a warning shot, then shot the 35-year-old inmate once in the back using a semiautomatic rifle when he continued his attack, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Wade Arthur Shiflett was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:04 p.m.

The inmate had been stabbing a second inmate, age 32, who was in stable condition at a local hospital with four stab wounds - one to the neck and at least two to the chest, said prison spokesman Lt. Fred M. Schroeder. Officials would not name the injured inmate, citing privacy regulations.

Thornton said authorities recovered the weapon, a sharpened electrical outlet cover plate.

Both inmates were white, and the motive wasn't known, she said. The incident occurred about 11:50 a.m. in the "B" facility exercise yard, where about 1,000 inmates were immediately locked in their cells as the investigation continues.

The department's deadly force investigative team was examining the incident, but preliminarily, "it looks like our use of force policy was followed," said department spokesman George Kostyrko. "Obviously, they need to look at the whole thing."

The guard who fired the shot was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

The "B" facility is one of three housing units in the maximum security prison commonly known as "New Folsom." The prison has about 3,300 inmates; the "B" unit houses general population inmates.

Shiflett was serving a Sonoma County sentence of nine years, eight months for vehicle theft and a sentence of one year and four months for burglary. He also had a 2001 conviction for assaulting an inmate at a different prison, Schroeder said. His earliest possible release date had been February 2009. He previously had been imprisoned for possessing a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm.

The victim is serving a five-year sentence from Los Angeles County for making terrorist threats, and is scheduled for release in July 2006.

The last inmate fatally shot by a guard was in August 2003 during a similar inmate-on-inmate assault at Pleasant Valley State Prison, Kostyrko said. There were two fatal shootings in 2003; one in 2000; three in 1998; one in 1997; three in 1996; one in 1995, and eight in 1994, he said.



 http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/11063920p-11980743c.html

Inmate found dead in Folsom State Prison cell
By Andy Furillo -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 4:18 pm PDT Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An inmate at Folsom State Prison was found dead in his cell in what appears to be a drug-related incident, officials said Tuesday.

Ricardo Briceno, 32, was alone in his cell when correctional officers discovered his body during a routine check Monday at 11 a.m., according to prison spokesman Lt. Bob Trujillo.

Briceno was serving a term for second-degree burglary with a firearm, Trujillo said. With sentencing enhancements, Briceno was scheduled to be released in 2020, the prison spokesman said.

The Sacramento County Coroner's Office is investigating the death, according to Trujillo. "It appears to be drug-related, but we won't know until the autopsy is done," Trujillo said.




 http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/breaking_news/8984271.htm

Posted on Tue, Jun. 22, 2004 
 

News in brief from Northern California

Associated Press

FOLSOM, Calif. - Six inmates were injured at Folsom State Prison over the weekend during the most violent riot there in more than two years, the Department of Corrections said.

The fight broke out among 40 inmates Saturday evening in a dining hall when a Southern Hispanic gang member who was being taken away by officers after an earlier fight shouted out a command in Spanish, said prison spokesman Lt. Bob Trujillo.

"I don't know who he was yelling to, specifically, but he just yelled out and it immediately erupted into a giant fight," Trujillo said.

No weapons were used during the melee, but six inmates received head wounds from punches and kicks. Two of the injured were hospitalized. By Monday, all the injured had returned to their cells.

The prison's 4,000 inmates were in lockdown while the riot was investigated.

The fight was the worst at Folsom since April 2002 riot when 100 inmates were involved in a fight between Southern Hispanic gang members and Northern Hispanics. The riot led the Office of Inspector General to conclude in a report that poor management allowed the violence to occur.

Former Warden Diana K. Butler resigned as a result of the report.



Posted on Thu, Jun. 17, 2004 
 

U.S. Attorney says no abuses after 2002 Folsom prison riot

DON THOMPSON
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Federal prosecutors say they found no human rights abuses in the aftermath of a 2002 riot at Folsom State Prison, without examining whether prison officials improperly triggered the riot or covered up their activities.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said Wednesday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger never asked him to consider several headline-grabbing allegations, including that an associate warden with connections to a prison gang violated procedures in allowing the riot to take place.

"The specific request of the governor's office was to review the aftermath of the riot, not the riot itself," Scott said in a telephone interview.

That review focused exclusively on whether the state violated the rights of members of the Northern Hispanic prison gang by keeping them locked in their cells 23 hours a day for most of the 21 months after the April 2002 riot.

After a preliminary review, Scott decided there is no need to open a criminal investigation because there is no evidence prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference" to inmates' basic needs.

That decision will be routinely forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for a secondary review of whether the federal government should seek civil penalties.

Schwarzenegger's request in February followed allegations in an internal affairs audit and at a Senate hearing that prison officials violated their own procedures by releasing members of the Northern Hispanic gang into a prison exercise yard en masse, where they immediately attacked members of the Southern Hispanic gang.

The associate warden who gave that order, Michael D. Bunnell, had ties to members of the Northern Hispanic gangs, witnesses alleged. The audio portion of a tape in which a subordinate questions Bunnell's order was subsequently erased, triggering allegations of a coverup.

Twenty-four inmates and one guard were injured, and another guard committed suicide after the riot. The injured officer is suing Bunnell, alleging that he helped prompt the riot.

Warden Diana Butler was removed and the entire prison administration transferred while an internal investigation continues into the circumstances leading to and immediately following the riot, said J.P. Tremblay, a spokesman for Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Roderick Hickman.

Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh said the governor wanted a federal review only over conditions during the subsequent lockdown. In his February news release and statement, Schwarzenegger asked Scott to help "root out corrupting influences" and "bring to justice those individuals who do (the prison system) dishonor by their misconduct."

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, who chaired hearings into problems at Folsom and throughout the prison system, said she respects Scott's decision, but "my office was provided documents that suggested certain employees of the Department of Corrections did not do their job." She said in a statement she is now awaiting the results of the department's investigation and the steps it is taking to avoid a repeat.

Members of the Nuestra Familia and Northern Structure gangs have since been moved out of the prison after they repeatedly attacked members affiliated with the Southern Hispanic, or Mexican Mafia, gang whenever they were released from their cells since the gang battle 26 months ago.

"It's a short-term situation where those Northern Hispanics will be moved back in there. But it's going to be done in an orderly, effective and safe manner," said Tremblay.

Hickman's two top deputies are reviewing the state's lockdown policies, and new procedures are in place to track allegations of employee wrongdoing and inmate abuse complaints. Spikes in inmate complaints can help prison officials "see and head off a problem before it blows up," Tremblay said.

ON THE NET

California Department of Corrections:  www.cdc.state.ca.us



 http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/9670800p-10594159c.html

Prison riot case may be closed
Sources: Key figures weren't questioned in probe of Folsom.
By Andy Furillo -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published June 16, 2004)

Four months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought a review of the April 2002 Folsom State Prison riot, federal officials appear poised to shut down the case without having interviewed any of the key players.

Sources said Eastern District U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott has prepared a draft letter to Schwarzenegger saying that federal prosecutors will take no action on a case that an FBI spokeswoman said hasn't risen to the level of an official investigation.

In an interview in his office this week, however, Scott said the "preliminary inquiry" that federal investigators initiated in response to the governor's request for an independent review remains open.

"To say we're closing it is a misnomer," Scott said.

The federal prosecutor also said he is "satisfied with the level of review that has occurred here to date."

Sources said the federal investigation has consisted in large part of reviewing an internal affairs report prepared by the Department of Corrections. No CDC employees were disciplined based on that report, sources said.

Sources said virtually nobody with significant knowledge of the case has been interviewed, including the associate warden who blew the whistle on the previous prison management's handling of the Folsom riot and a top-level Department of Corrections administrator who authored a report on possible civil-rights violations at Folsom.

In addition, the Folsom chapter president of the prison officers union said he is not aware of any line staff having been interviewed in the case. And a prisoners' rights activist who had been in contact with inmates at Folsom said she is not aware of any interviews with convicts conducted by federal agents.

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who co-chairs the joint legislative prison oversight committee, said it is critical that federal investigators interview key witnesses with information on the riot and its aftermath.

"I'm certainly not going to second-guess the U.S. attorney," Speier said. "But a paper review is not adequate."

Speier's office had been accumulating assorted internal Department of Corrections documents since the committee conducted a series of hearings on prison operations earlier this year. Speier aide Richard Steffen said the FBI requested and received some documents after the governor's request.

FBI spokeswoman Karen Ernst declined to discuss the case, except to characterize it - as did U.S. Attorney Scott - as a "preliminary inquiry" only.

"There is no active investigation that has been conducted," Ernst said. "There's really nothing else to add other than that."

Schwarzenegger's office, in a press release that accompanied the governor's prepared statement asking for the review on Feb. 6, characterized his request as an "unprecedented action to root out corrupting influences" in California prisons.

"I am gravely concerned with what I have recently learned about internal operations within the California prison system," Schwarzenegger said in the statement. "It is a priority of my administration to reform the California prison system and bring to justice those individuals who do it dishonor by their misconduct."

A gubernatorial spokeswoman declined Tuesday to comment on the federal investigation's apparent failure so far to conduct any meaningful interviews.

"My understanding is that the investigation continues," the spokeswoman, Terri Carbaugh, said. "We await their findings."

Scott, in a brief interview in his office Monday, said his staff proceeded with the case in response to a letter it received from Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins, the day the Governor's Office sought the independent review.

Siggins' letter to Scott said that he and Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Rod Hickman met Feb. 5 with top-level officials at the U.S. attorney's office "to bring to your attention, and refer for possible investigation and prosecution, matters occurring at Folsom State Prison in the aftermath of a riot that occurred on the prison yard in April 2002."

Although the violence in the April 8, 2002, incident was relatively mild by California prison riot standards, the case ignited a political brush fire after the associate warden of the prison complained to the Office of the Inspector General about Folsom management's handling of the case.

The inspector general's investigation culminated in an Oct. 3 report. It concluded that Folsom Warden Diana K. Butler "failed to take appropriate and prompt action" and "made questionable management decisions" in conducting her post-riot assessment and in enforcing job changes as a result of it. The report also found "substantial irregularities" in the use-of-force review signed by Butler. Butler was fired after the report was released.

But Max Lemon, the associate warden whose complaint sparked the inspector general's probe, said federal agents haven't interviewed him about the case.

"I'd love to know how they can conduct an investigation without talking to any of the witnesses or the staff," Lemon said. He was in the prison yard the day of the riot.

After the release of the inspector general's report, the Department of Corrections conducted a "management assessment" at Folsom that discovered, among other things, that the "northern Hispanic" inmates involved in the riot with a rival group had been locked down in their cells for 20 straight months.

A Dec. 15 fact-finding report on the lockdown found that those inmates were denied access to showers because of their "assaultive behavior." In addition, they were only getting three hot meals a week and were being denied any visits or participation in religious services since the time of the riot.

The report said the findings would be referred to internal affairs investigators as well as the Department of Justice "for investigation and possible prosecution."

Sources said that the author of the report, Ana Ramirez-Palmer, the Department of Corrections' regional administrator for Northern California, was never interviewed by federal agents about her findings. Ramirez-Palmer declined to comment for this story.

Steffen, Speier's chief aide on the oversight committee, said the failure of federal agents to have contacted Ramirez-Palmer, for one, "is basically not to have done an investigation."

Representatives of rank-and-file officers at the prison say none of the line personnel have been interviewed that they are aware of, either.

"It doesn't mean it didn't happen," said Dick Malmendier, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association chapter president at Folsom. "I'm just saying I'm not aware of it. Nobody's come to me."

Inmates rights activists say they have no information that any prisoners have been contacted regarding the investigation.

"We haven't heard of them talking to anybody," said Rose Braz, spokeswoman for the prison reform group Critical Resistance.

Nor have any FBI agents spoken to Patrick O'Dea, the Folsom officer who injured himself helping put down the riot. He has since filed a lawsuit against the Department of Corrections and some Folsom officials.

"Where is the attorney general? Where is the FBI?" O'Dea asked. "Why aren't they investigating this?"
 

The Bee's Andy Furillo can be reached at (916) 321-1141 or  afurillo@sacbee.com



 http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-prisons7feb07,1,7468877.story?coll=la-home-headlines

THE STATE
Governor Calls for U.S. Probe of Folsom, Boosts Prison Oversight
By Jenifer Warren and Carl Ingram
Times Staff Writers

February 7, 2004

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the U.S. attorney here Friday to investigate allegations that officials at Folsom State Prison orchestrated a riot two years ago and then conspired to cover it up. 

Facing a wave of troubles in all corners of California's far-flung penal system — the nation's largest — he moved on several other fronts as well.

The governor said he was reversing an earlier decision to greatly reduce the state's lone correctional watchdog agency and would instead restore its funding and give it new law enforcement powers, including the authority to issue subpoenas and seek search warrants.

In a third move, administration officials announced plans to phase out the use of steel-mesh cages to confine unruly juveniles in the California Youth Authority. The cages, used only in California, were singled out recently as dehumanizing by experts who studied the juvenile system.

Officials considered asking Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer to undertake an investigation, but concluded that the U.S. Department of Justice had resources and other tools that gave it an advantage, including sweeping civil rights laws under which prosecutions might be brought. 

Peter Siggins, the governor's legal affairs secretary, said the attorney general, who represents state agencies in legal matters, also might have faced potential conflicts of interest in an investigation of Folsom.

Political analysts called the governor's decision to summon federal investigators extraordinary and said they could not recall it happening before in California.

They suggested that the unfolding scandal in the state's vast adult and juvenile prison system had become a nagging distraction for the young Schwarzenegger administration, and that the governor hoped decisive moves would help stem the troubles.

"It's consistent with his pledge of 'action, action, action,' " said John Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, citing a phrase Schwarzenegger used in his first days in office. "It's also consistent with his effort to establish himself as a reformer. He's the political outsider who's going to come in and clean out the stables."

The investigation probably will examine the conduct of Folsom prison guards, who are represented by one of the most politically powerful and entrenched employee unions in the state. The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. was a heavy financial contributor to former Gov. Gray Davis, and during his tenure won lucrative contract concessions, including the right to review prison investigative files. 

In a statement, Schwarzenegger said he was "gravely concerned" about disclosures of alleged corruption and other problems in corrections, and would "bring to justice those individuals who do it dishonor by their misconduct.

"Prison employees who engage in misconduct bring disgrace … to the many hard-working professionals who daily go to work and do their best to serve the public and effectively manage this state's criminal population," Schwarzenegger said.

Siggins said the governor decided to ask for the federal investigation in part because of explosive testimony at hearings held by two state Senate oversight committees last month. 

Among other charges, whistle-blowers at those hearings said a "code of silence" discouraged guards from reporting wrongdoing — such as the events surrounding the April 2002 Folsom riot — for fear of reprisals. 

McGregor W. Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, said he had received Schwarzenegger's request Friday and would review the matter "to determine the appropriateness of an investigation."

Capitol veterans said they could not recall an instance in which a California governor had sought the aid of the U.S. attorney's office and with it, the FBI. Among them was attorney Steve Merksamer, who was chief of staff to former Gov. George Deukmejian. 

Merksamer praised Schwarzenegger's decision and said it "tells me that there are some extraordinarily serious problems" in the penal system.

Earlier this week, state officials released a series of studies by independent experts criticizing the California Youth Authority for its high levels of violence and failure to provide adequate medical care, psychiatric treatment and education to the 4,500 wards it incarcerates.

Those disclosures came less than two weeks after a federal court investigator's report portrayed the adult prison system as having lost its ability to investigate and discipline rogue guards. The report said pressure from the guards union influenced decisions at the very top levels of management.

Shortly before its release, former state Corrections Director Edward Alameida — accused in the report of killing an investigation at the behest of the guards union — resigned. 

Meanwhile, two state senators — Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) — have been focusing on the penal system as well. At two days of hearings in January, whistle-blowers — some in tears — described a dysfunctional system in which those who reported wrongdoing were penalized with demotions or other forms of retaliation by a fraternity determined to protect its own.

A prominent case in point was the Folsom riot. Though it lasted just 90 seconds, the fracas left 24 inmates injured and one guard permanently disabled — and may have played a role in the suicide of another officer. More recently, it also led to the firing of the warden and the reassignment of 10 other top officials.

Whistle-blowers said the riot in the exercise yard was caused when officers broke with procedure as they integrated members of two rival gangs that had been locked in their cells for months — the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia. Instead of inmates of each group being released a few at a time to ensure that no fights broke out, more than 80 with gang affiliations were released all at once.

A videotape of the incident showed that one officer, Capt. Doug Pieper, expressed concern about a possible riot and tried to take action, only to be overruled. In the aftermath, Pieper raised questions about the incident with superiors, but was demoted and pressured to sign a document saying he had voluntarily changed jobs, according to testimony at the hearing from his wife. A year later, he committed suicide, leaving a note saying, "My job killed me."

Also testifying at the Senate hearing was a sergeant in the prison's investigative unit, who said he was ordered by superiors to remove the audio portion of the videotape because it made it appear the riot should have been stopped. He said he refused, and was demoted six weeks later.

On Friday, one correctional officer at the stately old prison in Folsom, just east of Sacramento, reacted with optimism to news of a possible federal investigation. The officer requested anonymity, fearing, like so many in the prison system, retaliation for expressing what might be an unpopular view. "I think it's a good thing, I think it's fair," said the officer, a 16-year veteran.

Investigations by corrections' own internal affairs staff, he said, are invariably tainted by personal connections that often diminish or block sanctions that are merited. "If you're good with someone downtown, then they won't look as closely," the officer said. "It's bias is what it is."

Speier also welcomed the federal probe, calling it "long overdue," and she and Romero said they were gratified that Schwarzenegger had done an about-face on his bid to slash the budget of the independent Office of the Inspector General. In his January budget proposal, he had recommended gutting the office and moving it inside the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, a plan widely criticized by those who feared that investigators would lose their ability to work free of influence.

Speier said the hearing "dramatically underscored the need for an independent inspector general…. I give [Schwarzenegger] credit for recognizing that the inspector general is the beacon of truth."

An official with the guards union, meanwhile, said he was pleased to hear that a federal investigation might occur.

"He has to make sure there is no stone overturned. We're big fans of the governor," said Lance Corcoran, executive vice president of the union. 

Though he has "no idea" where the investigation is headed, Corcoran said the union has nothing to fear from the probe. "Follow due process, don't violate anybody's rights, and you'll never hear from CCPOA," he said.
 

Times staff writers Dan Morain and Eric Bailey contributed to this report.



 http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/7895290.htm

Posted on Fri, Feb. 06, 2004 

State asks federal prosecutors to probe 2002 Folsom Prison riot
DON THOMPSON
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked a federal prosecutor to probe the 2002 Folsom State Prison riot Friday, two weeks after witnesses told state Senate committees that prison officials helped trigger the 90-second gang fight and then covered up their mishandling of the riot and its aftermath.

McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California that includes Sacramento and neighboring Folsom, said in a statement he will consult with other agencies before deciding whether to conduct an investigation. A spokeswoman said there is no timetable for a decision.

Excluding California's massive budget deficit, the state's adult and juvenile prison system has flared as Schwarzenegger's largest and most unexpected policy crisis since he took office in November. Within the last month the system has been criticized by a federal overseer, national experts, state Senate witnesses, all amid reports of rampant overspending.

The administration also said Friday it has ended the California Youth Authority's practice of using wire cages to contain misbehaving youths after criticism from national experts and state senators last week. Schwarzenegger, among others, found the cages "offensive," said Legal Affairs Secretary Peter Siggins.

Schwarzenegger also reversed his plan to sharply cut funding and staff for the independent Office of the Inspector General. Senators had criticized his proposal to merge the office into the same Youth and Adult Correctional Agency the inspector general is charged with overseeing.

The administration said Schwarzenegger's call for a federal probe of the Folsom riot is "unprecedented" in California.

"I don't remember a governor ever asking the federal government to come in and review a prison. In fact I've often fought them when they've tried," Siggins said. He spent 14 years as top deputy to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and heading the attorney general's correctional law section before joining Schwarzenegger's new administration.

Acting Department of Corrections Director Rick Rimmer told senators two weeks ago that he was temporarily reassigning the entire Folsom administration during an independent investigation of the April 2002 riot, a probe he said could involve state or federal prosecutors.

The U.S. attorney has powers such as federal civil rights laws that aren't available to state or county prosecutors, and doesn't have the potential conflicts that the state attorney general would while acting as the state's lawyer, Siggins said. Lockyer's office agreed with Schwarzenegger's request.

Folsom's warden was fired last year. Rimmer said the new investigation will probe allegations by Folsom guards that the acting warden on the day of the riot had ties to the Southern Mexicans, or Mexican Mafia, one of the two gangs involved in the brief battle.

Twenty-five inmates were wounded, one correctional officer suffered a permanent disability as he helped break up the fight, and another committed suicide after complaining about his treatment by prison officials in the riot's aftermath.

The gangs, which had been separated for 12 weeks because of a previous incident, were supposed to be released into the prison exercise yard in small groups to prevent another fight. Instead, they were released all at once even after a correctional officer questioned the move, a question that was later deleted from the audio portion of videotapes of the riot.

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, who co-chaired the prison hearings, praised Schwarzenegger for reversing his plans for the inspector general. While the independent Folsom probe is wise, she said the state's watchdog needs to be given enough teeth that a federal review isn't needed.

Siggins said Schwarzenegger is committed to improving what he had previously dismissed as a worthless oversight office that Siggins said focused too much on "bureaucratic reviews of financial practices" instead of employee wrongdoing. That will likely mean more staff and money for an office where Schwarzenegger previously wanted to trim both, Siggins said.



Anguished prison guard: 'My job has killed me' 
Suicide note after riot highlights a troubled California system -- Senate to investigate 
Mark Martin, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Saturday, January 17, 2004 
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
 

URL:  sfgate.com/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/01/17/MNGQA4CAD51.DTL
 
 

This much is clear: Two warring gangs, some armed with objects sharp enough to kill, waged a bloody battle in the yard at Folsom State Prison on April 8, 2002. 

But a year and a half later, the drama, accusations and intrigue surrounding the riot read like the kind of script California's new governor might have considered during his previous career. 

But this is no movie. 

A dedicated captain at the prison who was haunted by the riot shot himself in the head one year ago, leaving a suicide note for his family and bosses that read, "My job has killed me.'' 

An associate warden who was once prosecuted for doing favors for a member of the prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia stands accused by some of his colleagues of purposely failing to quell the riot. 

And a whistle-blower alleging corruption and cover-up within the walls of the medium-security facility has California Highway Patrol protection because he fears for his life. 

All of this is expected to spill out in public next week at state Senate hearings designed to investigate the internal workings of California's troubled Department of Corrections. Part of the testimony will focus on what happened before, during and after a riot that injured 24 inmates and left one guard permanently disabled. 

But at the center of the hearings will be an overriding question that has come into sharper focus this week: Can the state's prison system, one of the world's largest penal institutions, police itself? 

The question arises as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing eliminating the state's Office of the Inspector General, the only independent agency overseeing corrections. 

"The California Department of Corrections has lost its way,'' said state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, chairwoman of a committee that oversees prisons. "My demand of (the department) is reform, overall, right now.'' 

On Thursday, a federally appointed investigator concluded a probe into Pelican Bay State Prison by suggesting that the department, swayed by a powerful union representing guards, should be held in contempt of court for its continual failure to investigate or punish dishonest guards. Special Master John Hagar wrote in a damning report that a code of silence within the department created "an overall atmosphere of deceit and corruption." 

Capt. Douglas Pieper ran head-first into that code, and his widow says it killed him. 

Pieper was on duty in Folsom on the morning of April 8, 2002, when things began to go terribly wrong. That day, the prison was scheduled to begin integrating members of two rival gangs who had been locked in their cells for months: the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia, perhaps the two most influential gangs in the prison system. 

The plan was to release inmates of the two groups slowly, a few at a time, into the main exercise yard to maintain control and ensure there was no trouble. Pieper, standing in a guard tower, quickly realized that plan was not being followed, he told his wife and investigators later. 

More than 80 inmates with gang affiliations were released nearly at once, and it appeared Mexican Mafia members were advancing toward their rivals in a menacing way, according to a report by the Inspector General's Office, which looked into the riot last fall. The report says Pieper asked a superior, Associate Warden Mike Bunnell, if he should "shut down the yard'' -- prison lingo for ordering the inmates to lie face-first on the ground. 

"Not yet,'' responded Bunnell, according to the report and a videotape that recorded the riot. Within seconds, a brawl erupted. Some inmates wielding sharp objects attacked each other in a brief but wild melee. 

The riot was stopped in about 90 seconds, but that day haunted Pieper for the rest of his days, according to his wife, Evette Pieper, who is scheduled to testify during the Senate hearing Tuesday. 

His wife says her husband began asking questions at the prison about what had happened, why it happened and why prison and Department of Corrections officials didn't seem interested in launching a serious investigation. 

Soon after, Pieper was reassigned to a job he didn't want by Warden Diana Butler, according to the report. His wife says he began to suffer health problems as he fretted over the riot. He couldn't sleep and lost nearly 50 pounds. 

A second-generation correctional officer, Pieper loved his job and was proud of the work guards do. But he began to seriously question some of his colleagues, and Evette Pieper says he was subjected to threats and pressured to sign documents stating he had willingly switched jobs. 

"The message was, you open your mouth, and we'll keep messing with you,'' Evette Pieper said. 

On Jan. 15, 2003, Pieper, 46, locked himself into his family's garage, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. A lengthy note he left blamed his death on pressures at work. One of his last lines: "Warden, you have won.'' 

He is survived by a 20-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. 

Pieper's concerns that things weren't right at Folsom -- both before and after the riot -- have since been validated. 

The confidential inspector general's report, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle, concludes that Folsom administrators botched the release of prisoners into the yard, didn't follow procedures in investigating the riot and then attempted to engage in a cover-up. 

For example, one of the captains who apparently disobeyed orders and let inmates out in large numbers was involved in the review of the riot -- a clear conflict of interest, according to the report. 

Butler, the warden, failed to discipline anyone and should have referred the case to the Sacramento County district attorney because weapons were involved in the fight, the report states. 

Butler also was behind an effort by some prison administrators to erase the audio portion of the videotape showing that Bunnell, the associate warden, declined to prevent the riot when he could have, the report says. 

A prison department official said that the department was continuing to review policies and procedures at Folsom and would make changes there.

"Whatever we find that dictates change will be done,'' said Bob Martinez, the department's director of communications. 

Butler, who despite several attempts to contact her was unavailable for comment, was fired in December. 

Max Lemon doesn't think that has solved the problems at Folsom. 

An associate warden, Lemon is expected to testify Tuesday that he believes the fight was set up to allow the Mexican Mafia to punish its rivals. Lemon said in an interview that he thought the gang had too much influence with officials in the prison. 

According to state records, Bunnell, the officer who delayed in ordering guards to shut down the yard, was fired from the Department of Corrections in 1992 for doing favors for inmates at Deuel Vocational Institute near Tracy, including arranging for the state to foot the bill for nearly $2,000 of dental work for a known member of the Mexican Mafia. 

The dental work, which included three gold crowns, had to be performed by an outside dentist because the prison dentist refused, saying the crowns were unnecessary. 

Bunnell was hired back four years later, however, after a court ruled that the evidence gathered against him had been illegally obtained. 

Corrections officials said they were unclear how an employee who once was fired had become one of the highest ranking officials at the prison. 

"That, along with a myriad of other issues, is being looked at,'' Martinez said. 

Bunnell could not be reached this week for comment. Sources close to the prison department's operations told The Chronicle he had been reassigned from his job at Folsom and reported to department headquarters in Sacramento. 

Bunnell is being called to testify at Tuesday's hearing. 

State Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, called the riot and the aftermath a "very suspicious scenario,'' noting that prison officials seemed to have punished the Nuestra Familia gang for the brawl by keeping them on lockdown for months afterward, even though they weren't the aggressors. 

This week, she helped Lemon secure protection from the CHP. He says he thinks gang members on the outside, or colleagues, may attack him, and he's afraid to leave his house and has stayed out of work. 

Lemon says he's determined to testify publicly that the Department of Corrections is not in control at Folsom. 

"The prison, and the department, need to be cleansed,'' he said. 

Speier and Romero say a portion of the hearings Wednesday will allow for discussion on how to better police the department. Both suggest Schwarzenegger's proposal to save $2 million by closing the inspector general's office would be a mistake. 

"A lot of this should begin with leadership, both in the department and from the governor,'' Speier said. "This needs to be taken very seriously.'' 

E-mail Mark Martin at markmartin@sfchronicle.com . 



 http://www.thekcrachannel.com/news/2766095/detail.html

TheKCRAChannel.com
Prison Riot Whistleblower Receives State Protection
Memo Says Others Asking For Personal Security
POSTED: 4:52 PM PST January 14, 2004
UPDATED: 5:20 PM PST January 14, 2004
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- KCRA 3 learned Wednesday that the state is offering security protection to those who've stepped forward in an investigation that stems from a riot inside Folsom State Prison.

A memo obtained by KCRA 3 says that several unnamed employees have requested personal security protection from the state.

In the memo, which is addressed to two state senators and the Department of Corrections, a Department of Corrections employee is raising concerns about the safety of the whistleblowers coming forward. The author writes: "These issues of personal safety are very real, and I encourage a field assessment by an outside law enforcement agency. I am requesting protection for my family."

As a matter of policy, the Department of Corrections is not commenting on if, or how many employees may have asked for security. But KCRA 3 has learned that several have already or are asking for protection as of Wednesday.

The concerns stem from an April 8, 2002, riot at Folsom Prison, in which two rival Hispanic gangs fought. Several current and former employees have come forward to allege that the riot was intentionally allowed to happen and then intentionally covered up.

"We must report crimes, whether staff or inmates are involved. And the same laws must apply to both. No one can be above the law. If we are to stand for truth as a peace officer, the truth must be told," said Folsom State Prison Associate Warden Max Lemon.



 http://www.thekcrachannel.com/news/2751878/detail.html

Prison Officials Accused Of Causing Riot, Covering It Up
Injured Officer: Evidence Suggests Inmate Gang Allowed To Attack Other Inmate Gang

POSTED: 3:47 PM PST January 8, 2004
UPDATED: 6:35 PM PST January 8, 2004

FOLSOM, Calif. -- There are new allegations that some Folsom Prison officials intentionally allowed an April 2002 inmate riot to happen and that those same officials then launched a cover-up.

The allegations are put forth in documents exclusively obtained by KCRA 3. The documents show that a group of current and former Folsom State Prison supervisors and staff presented their allegations before two state senators. Included in that group is Evette Pieper, the widow of Capt. D.F. Pieper -- a custody captain who committed suicide during the investigation into the riot.
 

Pat O'Dea was a correctional officer injured the riot. He says evidence contained in their packet of allegations suggests a certain prison official allowed a southern Hispanic inmate gang to intentionally attack a northern Hispanic inmate gang.
 

The documents state: "We are concerned about this individual's potential association, membership, and/or influence in this 'prison gang' and (that person's) ability to retaliate against inmates and staff by calling 'hits.'"
 

"It appears there might have been an administrator who made a choice to allow the southern Hispanics to seek revenge for an incident that took place earlier that year," O'Dea said.
 

On Thursday, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, confirmed how serious the allegations are.
 

"(There are) some very serious allegations. So serious, that we forwarded these concerns for a comprehensive, full, thorough investigation of the matter," Romero said.
 

"Those are very, very tough charges to make. And if they are sustained, it would suggest that the department needs to be totally cleansed," Speier said.
 

KCRA 3 also obtained a confidential copy of the Office of the Inspector General's investigative report on the riot. In it, investigators point out there were "substantial irregularities" in the prison's own internal investigation of the riot, and that those reports "contained statements contradicted by other information." The report even shows the warden ordered an "...audio portion of the riot videotape to be removed." However, the Inspector General's final conclusion read: "This investigation did not reveal criminal misconduct."
 

But Evette Pieper says state senators need to dig deeper. She says her husband left a suicide note behind, saying he did what he did because of extreme pressure during a cover-up. She says the Office of the Inspector General's official report even lends some credence to her claim. The report points out two men, who admitted they didn't follow the proper procedure that could have prevented the riot, were promoted, while her husband and another supervisor -- both cleared of wrongdoing -- were demoted.
 

The official report goes so far as to say, "The job changes ordered by the warden demonstrated poor judgment in that they were easily perceived by the staff to have been motivated by a desire to cover up events of April 8, 2002."

"It still reeks of cover-up. The report out there says this is wrong and that's wrong, but it's not criminal. Well, there's penal code that shows criminal acts were committed. So, to me, a criminal cover-up continues," Evette Pieper said.


 http://www.thekcrachannel.com/news/1434290/detail.html

TheKCRAChannel.com

Investigation Begins Into Prison Riot
Brawl Caught On Videotape
POSTED: 6:25 p.m. PDT May 3, 2002
UPDATED: 6:53 p.m. PDT May 3, 2002
 

FOLSOM, Calif. -- The California Department of Corrections is investigating why rival prison inmates at Folsom Prison were on the yard together before a recent prison riot and whether any prison staffers went too far trying to stop the fight. 

Watch The Prison Riot Video

Approximately 80 Mexican inmates sparred on the main yard in a large-scale, 90-second melee that was captured on videotape April 8. 

Dozens of inmates were scraped and bruised, and at least one was rushed to the UC Davis Medical Center with a gash on his head. 

But questions are being raised as to why two known rival groups, the northern Mexicans and the southern Mexicans, were allowed on the yard at the same time only weeks after a similar incident. 

"There was another incident about a month before, and they were coming off lockdown when this incident occurred," said Bob Martinez, a Department of Corrections spokesman. 

Martinez said that officials at Old Folsom Prison were trying to reintroduce the two groups back into the yard. 

"What that means is they had been in lockdown. And the mission is to always get them back into the general population to reprogram everything," Martinez said. 

Also, several sources within the corrections system said that one of the main focuses of the investigation would be on whether a man in a tie in the yard was using his foot in an unnecessary or abusive way against an inmate on the ground. 

"The investigation will ask questions of every aspect, and it will be answered," Martinez said. 

No one speaking for the prison would identify the individual in the tie by name, but they did say that his normal job duty does not require him to be on the yard. 

As for the investigation, officials said that they would not have a preliminary finding on this incident until the end of this month. 

Copyright 2002 by TheKCRAChannel.



 http://www.thekcrachannel.com/print/2751878/detail.html?use=print

TheKCRAChannel.com

Prison Officials Accused Of Causing Riot, Covering It Up
Injured Officer: Evidence Suggests Inmate Gang Allowed To Attack Other Inmate Gang
POSTED: 3:47 PM PST January 8, 2004
UPDATED: 6:35 PM PST January 8, 2004
 
 

FOLSOM, Calif. -- There are new allegations that some Folsom Prison officials intentionally allowed an April 2002 inmate riot to happen and that those same officials then launched a cover-up.

Watch Mike TeSelle's Report 

The allegations are put forth in documents exclusively obtained by KCRA 3. The documents show that a group of current and former Folsom State Prison supervisors and staff presented their allegations before two state senators. Included in that group is Evette Pieper, the widow of Capt. D.F. Pieper -- a custody captain who committed suicide during the investigation into the riot.

Pat O'Dea was a correctional officer injured the riot. He says evidence contained in their packet of allegations suggests a certain prison official allowed a southern Hispanic inmate gang to intentionally attack a northern Hispanic inmate gang.

The documents state: "We are concerned about this individual's potential association, membership, and/or influence in this 'prison gang' and (that person's) ability to retaliate against inmates and staff by calling 'hits.'"

"It appears there might have been an administrator who made a choice to allow the southern Hispanics to seek revenge for an incident that took place earlier that year," O'Dea said.

On Thursday, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, confirmed how serious the allegations are.

"(There are) some very serious allegations. So serious, that we forwarded these concerns for a comprehensive, full, thorough investigation of the matter," Romero said.

"Those are very, very tough charges to make. And if they are sustained, it would suggest that the department needs to be totally cleansed," Speier said.

KCRA 3 also obtained a confidential copy of the Office of the Inspector General's investigative report on the riot. In it, investigators point out there were "substantial irregularities" in the prison's own internal investigation of the riot, and that those reports "contained statements contradicted by other information." The report even shows the warden ordered an "...audio portion of the riot videotape to be removed." However, the Inspector General's final conclusion read: "This investigation did not reveal criminal misconduct."

But Evette Pieper says state senators need to dig deeper. She says her husband left a suicide note behind, saying he did what he did because of extreme pressure during a cover-up. She says the Office of the Inspector General's official report even lends some credence to her claim. The report points out two men, who admitted they didn't follow the proper procedure that could have prevented the riot, were promoted, while her husband and another supervisor -- both cleared of wrongdoing -- were demoted.

The official report goes so far as to say, "The job changes ordered by the warden demonstrated poor judgment in that they were easily perceived by the staff to have been motivated by a desire to cover up events of April 8, 2002."

"It still reeks of cover-up. The report out there says this is wrong and that's wrong, but it's not criminal. Well, there's penal code that shows criminal acts were committed. So, to me, a criminal cover-up continues," Evette Pieper said.

Previous Story: 
May 3, 2002: Investigation Begins Into Prison Riot 

Copyright 2004 by TheKCRAChannel. 
 


Former Warden Michael Knowles of Mule Creek State Prison
Now at Folsom - same problems now at Folsom

 Three Strikes Legal - Index

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