Prison Guards - Articles 

Always on guard

State's correctional officers work long hours in pressure-cooker setting
By Steve Schmidt
June 11, 2006

A couple of things you should know upfront about law enforcement types like Samuel Morales:

First, he guards state prisoners, but don't call him a prison guard to his face. He prefers “correctional officer.” It sounds more professional to him.

Second, he's not a thug. That's the mistake a lot of Californians make about people in his line of work: That they're sadists and knuckle-draggers, like the snarling wardens that hog the screen in prison movies.

This is no movie set Morales works on.

This is Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, a prison outpost ringed by curtains of wire and a thicket of yellow wildflowers. It houses 4,700 convicts, watched over by 700 guards.

“There are not many of us and there are too many of them,” says Morales, noting the recent boom in the inmate population. “My job is more challenging now.”

California runs one of the largest – and one of the most violent – prison systems in the nation. Inmate medical care remains poor.

The prison population, already at a record high, partly due to California's three-strikes law, is expected to grow from 171,000 to 193,000 in five years.The annual prison budget has swelled from $6 billion to $8 billion since Gov. Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, and it still doesn't seem to have enough to fully fund key reforms.

Working the pens are 33,000 guards.

In the debate over how to fix the prison system, guards are often made out to be the bad guys. Maybe it's because many earn big salaries, or because they are represented by one of the state's most powerful unions, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Rank-and-file correctional officers, however, see themselves as bit players in a system swamped by problems beyond their reach.

Many earn hefty paychecks all right, largely because they put in so much overtime due to staff shortages.

But some pay a beastly price for it.

“A lot of the staff feels that the public doesn't really want to know what goes on behind our walls,” said a 38-year-old guard at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, who, like several others, requested anonymity so he could speak frankly about his work. “They think of us as the garbage men of the law enforcement community.”

Surrounded by felons, misfits and the chemically imbalanced, it's a rare guard who hasn't been cursed, kicked, pushed, stabbed, slugged, spit on or gassed.

Gassing is when an inmate hurls feces, urine or blood – or a mix of the three – in a guard's face.

A correctional officer at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California said he's been gassed five times in his 10 years at the maximum-security lockup.

One inmate, heavily medicated because of a psychiatric disorder, laughed as he did it.

The guard showered five times that night to get the smell out.

“I was angry at first, but then I had to remind myself that this person was on psychiatric drugs,” said Nick W., the 59-year-old correctional officer, who would only speak on the condition that his full name not be used. “When you are in a society with nothing but felons, those kinds of things are going to happen.”

Many guards worry that the hazards of the job will escalate as the inmate population grows.

Making matters worse: The shortage of correctional officers and other prison staff. Last year, 8 percent of guard positions were unfilled.

At many of California's 32 prisons, guards complain that state budget constraints and chronic staffing gaps are already leading to compromises in safety.

At Donovan on a recent morning, Morales supervised 186 inmates spread over one large room. In previous years, at least two guards would stand watch over the minimum-security housing unit.

A few prisoners played cards in their undershirts. Others watched “The Price is Right” on a tiny TV.

Morales, a 20-year veteran of the prison business, said inmates today display a more in-your-face attitude toward staff.

They also have a wily streak. “These guys have vivid imaginations,” he said. “They can do anything with anything.”

Morales recently found a stash of prison-made alcohol, known as “pruno,” in his unit. The concoction – made from fermented fruit, sugar and other ingredients – smelled like vomit and looked like wine cooler.

Inmates like to hide the rotgut in a plastic bag behind the shower-room plumbing.

At another prison, the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, three guards recently stood watch over 200 inmates housed in the prison's former gym. Many prisons operate at more than twice their original capacity, forcing officials to crowd convicts into gyms and other spaces.

The Norco inmates wore orange jumpsuits and stood around metal bunk beds lining the scruffy tile floor.

It had been a tough 24 hours inside the minimum-security unit. A water main broke, forcing the staff to bring in Porta Potties. The roof leaked from a rainstorm. During the downpour, some lights were switched off because the staff worried that the rainwater would cause an electrical short.

Said one longtime guard: “If you want a feel for some of the problems the prison system is facing, just look around the room.”

Frustration among some guards runs deep – over the shortage of money for prison repairs, over the political back-and-forth in Sacramento about prison reform.

“We complain, complain and complain about problems and all we get is lip service,” said a longtime guard at California Men's Colony, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity because he fears retribution from his bosses. “Morale right now is extremely low.”

Near noon on a recent weekday, a radio call went out across Donovan: “Attention all officers. We have 14 full, 8-hour positions available for overtime.”

Lt. Gregory Sloan, who heads Donovan's personnel assignment office, says as many as 60 guards work additional shifts each day – and only about half do it voluntarily.

“It's become a huge challenge for the staff,” Sloan said.

Many put in 16 hours of overtime a week, on top of their regular, 40-hour schedule. As a result, they are seeing the biggest paychecks of their lives.

A recent San Diego Union-Tribune analysis found that about one out of 10 state guards earned more than $100,000 last year. A correctional officer in Northern California led the pack, grossing $187,000. The average base salary for a guard last year was $57,000, the analysis showed.

It's not unusual for guards to work back-to-back shifts, supervising convicts for 16 consecutive hours.

They end their workdays bleary-eyed, or heavily caffeinated.

“I'm tired right now. My eyes are burning,” said Donovan guard Christie Ferguson, near the close of a recent 64-hour workweek. “My partner kind of carried the load today.”

Another downside, she said: “I don't get to see my family.”

To prepare for the long days, many guards pack two big lunches.

At Donovan, correctional officer Frank Corona brought in linguine with shrimp, and apples, oranges and cheese on a recent weekday. “It's getting to the point where you never know if you are going to make it home anymore,” he said.

The state exacerbated the staff shortage when it suspended its correctional officer training program in 2003 and 2004. At the time, prison officials anticipated a drop in the inmate population and thought they would need fewer guards.

The training program has since reopened and been expanded. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation hopes to train as many as 3,700 new guards between this summer and next.

Basic training takes 16 weeks. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma, or the academic equivalent.

Until relief comes, Donovan guard Harold J. Judd volunteers to work overtime twice a week. By volunteering, he has more direct control over his work schedule.

His regular shift starts at 10 p.m. Sometimes he doesn't leave until 2 p.m. the next day. He earned nearly as much in overtime pay last year as regular pay.

Many guards say they would give up the extra money in exchange for a regular, 40-hour workweek and more officers on each watch.

Near the end of a recent marathon day, Judd manned a gate and patted down a string of inmates.

“I'm still feeling 100 percent,” he said, smiling weakly. “But as soon as I get home I'm getting in bed.”

Stories of rogue guards surface now and then. Guards who mistreated inmates, guards who abused their power.

Many rank-and-filers complain the media portray them all as bad apples. They bristle at the term “guard,” considering it outdated and insulting.

So they call themselves correctional officers and carry on.

Because of the handsome paychecks. Because they're in a growth industry. Because many are drawn to law enforcement and the uniform is a good fit, even if outsiders don't have a clue about the capricious environment they work in.

In a report last year, the state Legislative Analyst's Office said the California prison system appeared to have the highest level of inmate violence in the nation – even more than Texas or the federal prison system, which both have roughly the same number of inmates as California.

Most of the violence was inmate on inmate, but prison staff members were often targeted as well.

Correctional officer Manuel A. Gonzalez was stabbed to death last year by a convict at a prison in Chino, the first state prison guard killed on the job in 20 years.

In August, a riot at Calipatria State Prison left one inmate dead, plus 25 inmates and 25 guards wounded.

And earlier this month, a female correctional officer was released unharmed after a 10-hour hostage standoff at California State Prison Sacramento. The inmate, who held the guard at knife-point, was serving time for robbery and false imprisonment after being convicted in San Diego County.

Risk is part of the job description, guards know, even if most days are uneventful.

“Believe me, I'm fearful every time I go to work and go through that gate. Even today,” said correctional officer Nick W., of Pelican Bay. “You just never know what is going to happen.”

Other moments leaven the uncertainty.

A few years ago, when a Pelican inmate died of cancer, the guard felt a tinge of empathy. He sensed some kinship with the prisoner – both had once served in the same branch of the military.

The prisoner had also saved the guard twice from being gassed by other convicts.

The guard always remembered that.

Steve Schmidt: (619) 293-1380;

Prison guards lock up bundle in OT pay

2,400 officers made more than $100,000
By Steve Schmidt
February 28, 2006

Roughly one out of 10 California prison guards was paid more than $100,000 last year, fueled largely by a jump in overtime.

Some 2,400 rank-and-file correctional officers' pay exceeded $100,000 in 2005, compared with 557 the year before, a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of payroll figures shows.

One guard grossed $187,000, making him the highest-paid correctional officer in California, according to data provided by the state controller's office.

At the historic San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, one out of five guards was paid more than $100,000 last year.

To many lawmakers and others, the ballooning figures offer fresh evidence that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's drive to overhaul the $8 billion prison system has stalled.

State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, said the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains one of the “most failed” agencies in California.

The payroll figures, she said, “hit me hard in the belly. ... Reform has been slow in coming,and I would say largely it's nonexistent.” She was shown the figures analyzedby the Union-Tribune.

The governor's promised shake-up appeared to suffer a blow over the weekend when prisons chief Roderick Q. Hickman abruptly quit after two years on the job. Hickman reportedly said he lacked the political support from the governor and legislators to carry out major revisions.

Corrections officials attribute the guards' rising payroll costs primarily to conflicting trends: The inmate population is swelling, and many prisons remain hobbled by guard shortages.

Elaine Jennings, a spokeswoman for the prison system, said yesterday the sharp growth in correctional officer overtime mirrors the growth in the prisons'population.

She disagrees with those who see the figures as further evidence of dysfunction within the prison system. “I don't think it's a sign of disorganization or of failed leadership,” Jennings said.

State guards last year collected an average base pay of $57,000, an increase of 27 percent since 2003, but less than the average base pay of a Highway Patrol officer or a San Diego police officer.

To cover gaps in staffing, however, thousands of correctional officers often worked longer than the standard 41-hour week, substantially boosting their pay.

Cash-strapped California spent $277 million last year on guard overtime, twice as much as in 2004.

The Union–Tribune analysis reviewed three years of raw payroll data – 2003 through 2005 – provided by the state controller's office at the newspaper's request.

Paul Sutton, a criminal-justice professor at San Diego State University, called the paychecks obscene.

“Sure, some of them work very hard. But a lot of people work very hard and don't make a fraction of what most correctional officers make,” he said. “That is just upside down in a state that is struggling financially and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Lawmakers and others say the state exacerbated the guard shortage in late 2003 when it suspended classes for several months at a correctional officer training academy near Sacramento.

Prison officials vowed early last year to clamp down on overtime after repeated warnings from state budget analysts about runaway payroll costs.

The promises came in the wake of the governor's pledge to overhaul the sprawling prison system – a pledge that strikes many critics today as hollow.

Early in the Schwarzenegger administration, administrators vowed to reduce the inmate population by expanding rehabilitation programs.

But today the system houses a record 170,000 inmates, and the governor recently proposed the construction of two prisons.

State officials argue that growth in the adult inmate population is inevitable, given the increase in California's overall population. They said more prison space is needed as part of a planned expansion of rehabilitation programs.

Meanwhile, the annual corrections budget has grown from $6 billion in 2004 to nearly $8 billion.

“And, incredibly, the governor wants to build new jail cells,” said Rose Braz, director of Critical Resistance, a penal-reform group based in Oakland. “We're going in the wrong direction.”

Julie Soderlund, a spokeswoman for the governor, sharply disagreed last night. She said the governor remains committed to reform, including resolving issues that have dogged the system for years.

“We have a long way to go,” Soderlund said. “Change doesn't happen overnight.”

One of the thorniest problems is providing adequate inmate medical care. Earlier this month, a federal judge appointed an outside receiver to improve the prison system's long-troubled health care system.

On a separate issue, Hickman said last year he would seek significant changes in the labor agreement with the prison guards union, the politically powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The union contract expires July 2.

The contract includes provisions tied to guard overtime and sick leave that some say are too generous. “It's the sweetest contract you can ever imagine,” said state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough.

Voluntary overtime, for example, is assigned by seniority. That drives up overtime costs because veteran guards, who are at the peak of the hourly pay scale, earn far more when they work a long day than junior officers.

The contract also allows prisons to draw on a pool of reserve guards when a regular correctional officer calls in sick. These fill-in employees, however, can decline an assignment by saying they're sick and receive a full day's pay.

When that happens, a prison can end up paying a handful of people sick leave to cover a single absence.

Last year, the state spent $1.3 billion, including money for sick leave, to pay the base salaries of 22,800 guards. That's 10 percent more than the previous year.

Lance Corcoran, the union's chief of governmental affairs, said his organization will stand behind its hard-won rights during upcoming contract negotiations.

“Anyone who thinks that we are going to go into these negotiations with our tail between our legs is sorely underestimating the will of our membership,” he said.

Corcoran blamed the staffing gap on mismanagement by corrections officials in Sacramento, noting the temporarysuspension of guard training classes in 2003. “That was a very boneheaded thing to do,” he said.

He believes the staffing issue has damaged guard morale, jeopardized staff safety and undermined the governor's reform drive.

“When a correctional officer is tired and not very happy because they have to work overtime, the whole idea of rehabilitation goes out the window,” he said.

SDSU's Sutton, who regularly tours California's prisons, said the guards take their work seriously. But at the same time, he said, “many of them are even a bit giddy about what they earn.”

Last year, among the state's 32 adult prisons, nearly 8 percent of the guard positions on average were not filled.

Among the guard vacancy rates, by facility: San Quentin State Prison, 7 percent; Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, 8 percent; and High Desert State Prison in Susanville, 16 percent.

Prison officials are bracing for more vacancies due to a recent drop in the guard retirement age, another provision of the labor agreement.

To address the shortage, prison officials recently opened a second correctional officer academy in Stockton. They plan to train as many as 3,700 guards between this summer and next.

Starting pay for a state correctional officer is $39,700 a year.

An analysis of state payroll data shows the average base pay last year for a guard was $57,000.

CHP officers were paid, by contrast, an average of$64,000 in base pay last year. A veteran patrol officer with the San Diego Police Department was paid an average of$69,000.

Prison guards received an average of$15,000 in other pay, mostly in overtime.

Thousands of guards also earned $2,400 bonuses – known as “rattlesnake pay” – if they worked in desert regions where it's tough to attract and keep employees.

Add it up, and the average year-end gross pay for a stateprison guard last year was $72,000.

Last year, San Quentin had the greatest number of correctional officers earning more than $100,000 – 182, or about one out of five rank-and-file guards.

Donovan, with 132 guards earning more than $100,000, had the fourth highest. Centinela State Prison near El Centro had 39 earning more than $100,000.

The highest-paid guard in the state last year was John L. Mattingly at High Desert. He grossed $187,000, including $114,000 in overtime. He could not be reached for comment.

Two other correctional officers received more in 2005, but their amounts included several years of back pay.

The highest-paid correctional officer at Donovan in 2005 was Rafael Esquilin Jr., who earned $152,000. He wasn't available for comment.

Hickman, the departing state prisons chief, earned $131,000 over the same period.

By mid-2007, the prison system will house a projected 172,000 inmates, further straining the work force.

The proposed 2006-07 prison budget includes more money for inmate education and rehabilitation programs. However, the state legislative analyst's office issued a report last week calling many of the programs incomplete or unrealistic.

A state Senate panel chaired by Mike Machado, D-Linden, had scheduled a hearing for this week to discuss the budget. The hearing is expected to be delayed in light of Hickman's sudden resignation.

Schwarzenegger praised Hickman's service this week and named Jeanne S. Woodford, the state's No. 2 person for corrections, acting secretary.

Machado said Hickman's departure adds to the air of crisis surrounding the prison system, noting that it faces serious challenges on a range of complex issues.

“I think the governor has spoken eloquently about the need to address the issues, but I don't think he has put his shoulder to the grindstone to move them along,” he said yesterday.

Union-Tribune research analyst Danielle Cervantes contributed to this report. 

Steve Schmidt: (619) 293-1380;

Guards rant on bosses via Internet
Prison officials get unflattering names, descriptions, pictures 
By CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian staff writer

Posted: Saturday March 19th, 2005, 7:55 PM
Last Updated: Saturday March 19th, 2005, 9:33 PM

Click here to see correctional officer Web site.
Click here to see correctional officer Web site.

Prison guards often accused of maintaining a "code of silence" are being anything but quiet on the Internet.

Especially some local ones.

A Web site for Wasco State Prison correctional officers is full of rants against management and some ridiculing of inmates.

The warden's administration is called "thug-hugging." A top-level decision is dismissed as "boneheaded." One writer signs his posts "Can't wait to retire."

Other, similarly caustic sites take aim at the Department of Corrections generally. One, by a former correctional officer who calls himself Paco Villa and state officials such things as "Spud" and "Driftwood," is well-known to prison guards and administrators statewide.

Corrections spokesman Todd Slosek said he and his bosses don't pay much attention to the sites.

"I've been given printouts but I won't read them," he said. "I have far too much work to do."

The postings are anonymous so there's no guarantee officers are writing them nor that all the prison information is accurate.

But asked how many Wasco guards agree with what's on the Wasco site, union representative Darin Standiford said, "Many, I'm afraid."

"It's like a group therapy session," Standiford, of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said.

Wasco Warden P.L. Vazquez knows about some of the comments but really doesn't read them, said prison spokesman Brian Parriott. Vazquez declined to be interviewed about the site.

Parriott said Vazquez wishes the writers would identify themselves, detail their concerns and help her find solutions, he said. Parriott said most of the Wasco staffers he talks to are happy at work.

"Any time you're dealing with this many (employees), one or two people won't like how we do things," he said. "A lot of times the majority doesn't get heard because we're content."

In other parts of the country, bloggers have recently been fired for their opinionated rants on private blogs.

The Associated Press recently wrote about a flight attendant fired after posting suggestive photos of herself in uniform and a former Google employee was fired after discussing his employer's finances online.

Parriott said the Wasco Web site contributors shouldn't be in peril as long as they're not slandering anybody or committing a crime.

"If they're not breaking the law, who are we to say what they can and cannot say?" he said.

Standiford said he only periodically looks at the Wasco site and agreed that non-guards could be contributing. He declined to identify officers who are posting but records show the site is registered to a Bakersfield man with the same name as a Wasco officer.

The man, Keith Reynolds, could not be reached for comment after messages were left at two phone numbers listed for him.

Harsh hits

Vazquez, the Wasco warden, takes some harsh hits on the site. Writers say she's a weak leader, sets staff up for failure by introducing unworkable programs and would retaliate if she knew the posters' names.

"Since this Warden has come to Wasco, the joint has gone FURTHER down the tubes ... BUT I hear that Tehachapi is STILL partying since she left. Good for them, bad for us!" one posting says.

One writer calls Wasco's administration "thug-hugging" because reportedly, a high-ranking official put his or her hands on inmates to pray for them during a ministry program.

Under the heading "Yards will run come Hell or Tsunami," someone complains about a "boneheaded" policy that only captains can cancel outdoor activity for inmates. 

And both administrators and inmates are mocked over a rule that prisoners be given blankets when locked up in outdoor holding cells.

"Shouldn't we just go ahead and order up some pacifiers to hand out so these yahoos feel all warm, cozy and at peace when the administration walks by?" it asks.

Parriott said most correctional officers support Vazquez's efforts to help prisoners lead productive lives after release.

He said he's heard informal complaints about the touching of an inmate but has seen no evidence of wrongdoing. Vazquez has denied being the toucher, Parriott said.

Asked if he's disturbed that some correctional officers apparently don't think inmates should be given blankets when held out in the cold, Parriott said there aren't many of them.

"The majority does think (prisoners) are human beings and need to be treated that way," he said.

Standiford said many guards have "little faith" in prison management. He complained that administrators talk about rooting out a "code of silence" that doesn't exist, sometimes take the word of inmates over officers and don't listen to the rank and file's concerns.

"There are a lot of disgruntled employees right now," he said.

'Wrong direction'

Similar griping can be found on the Paco Villa site, run by self-described "disgruntled" former correctional officer Jeff Doyle. 

The parole agent, on leave pending a workers' compensation issue, started the site because while he respects the CCPOA's leadership, he thinks the union sometimes "rolls over on things."

On the site, Paco calls Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Rod Hickman "Spud" for being a political "hot potato" when he was appointed to his post, which oversees the Department of Corrections. "Hot," Doyle said, because of talk he was unqualified.

The site also has a picture of Hickman that morphs into a rat.

Paco calls corrections Director Jeanne Woodford "Driftwood" for allegedly doing whatever her bosses tell her to do. 

This was Paco's reaction when the watchdog group Little Hoover Commission recently approved a plan to reorganize the corrections system, including putting more emphasis on rehabilitation:

"I am pleased that this Roadmap to Tragedy has been indelibly embossed with the Spud Brand. Once implemented, it will either explode or fall down from the sheer weight of Spud's bloated (albeit empty) head. Whatever happens, this is all Spud's. He owns it (although he won't be so willing to own up post-failure)."

In an interview, Doyle said he has "no problem" with rehabilitation programs but he thinks the governor and corrections chiefs are moving too far to the left. 

Very few alcohol and drug addicts committing crimes are really ready to change yet the department is making that a key focus, he said.

Doyle also objected to inmates being called "clients."

"Now the CDC is saying, 'We're here to serve you (inmates),'" he said. "There's no indication public sentiment goes in that direction."

He said his posts are his opinion but he gets a lot of information about the prison system from officers.

Lance Corcoran, the state CCPOA's vice president and spokesman, said the sites are a "great sounding board" and lots of people view them but he doesn't know if they represent the views of just some or many members.

It's "vogue" to be negative and people who write positive things get taken to task, he said. But some do feel strongly that the department is "going in the wrong direction," Corcoran said.

"I don't want to give the impression members are universally angry," he said. "There are frustrations in some cases that the leadership really ignores them."

Guards haven't been getting needed safety equipment, state lawmakers are going back on a guard pay deal and the union's been cut out of discussions about the system restructuring, he said.

CDC spokesman Slosek and YACA spokesman J.P. Tremblay declined to respond to the derogatory nicknames given to their bosses or to most of the postings.

Tremblay did say Hickman wants the CCPOA involved in reform planning but first must go through an agency labor official and not the secretary directly as under previous administrations. 

The protective vests Corcoran referred to are being distributed, first to officers who work in high-risk areas, he said.

The corrections system can't keep running the way it has, Tremblay said, with huge numbers of prisoners reoffending and returning to custody after release. 

"We've got a governor saying corrections needs to correct, not just punish," he said.

Not "angry"

In a posting that followed his interview with The Californian, Paco said people shouldn't mistake the "passion" corrections employees are expressing for "anger." 

He said CCPOA President Mike Jimenez was recently "cautioned" by a legislator about his anger over how corrections is being run.

"Perhaps the propensity of those 'outside' to infer anger from our 'passion,' as (Jimenez) described it, is based upon more than a misunderstanding of the bluntness typical of the profession," Paco's posting says. "Maybe it's also driven by the passionate belief we really are the knuckle-dragging goons of their 'guard' stereotype. More likely, it is both."

Inmate's mother faces drug charges

By Kara D. Machado
Sentinel Reporter

HANFORD - An inmate's mother has been charged with conspiring to bring drugs into California State Prison, Corcoran.

Rosetta Brown, 58, was arrested Wednesday at her home in Inglewood and booked into the Kings County Jail where she remained behind bars Monday on $50,000 bail, jail officials reported. Brown and CSPC correctional officer Linda Brock are alleged to have conspired to bring drugs to Brown's son, CSPC inmate Dayon Lively, 36.

Brock, who was arrested Feb. 14, was still in custody Monday with $500,000 bail. Brock has been formally charged with conspiracy, solicitation of murder, sexual penetration and selling/transporting a controlled substance. The Kings County District Attorney's Office maintains Brock had a sexual affair with Lively and solicited the murder of her husband.

Lively, a gang member who allegedly was to find someone outside the prison walls to murder Brock's husband, will not be charged with anything, Kings County Chief Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hart said.

Charging Lively "is a futile gesture since he's doing two life terms" for murder, Hart said. "It's ironic that we're prosecuting his mother because, certainly, Lively was in it as deep as anyone.

"Because he is doing two life terms anyway, another term of several years is meaningless, but since he involved his mother, the pain he'll have to suffer is that now his mother may have to do time in prison."

Hart said Brown could face a maximum of six years in prison.

A search warrant was served at Brown's residence in Inglewood just before 8 a.m. last Wednesday. Participating in the warrant were officials from the California Department of Corrections (CDC) Investigative Services Unit and Office of Internal Affairs as well as members of the Inglewood Police and SWAT team

The search resulted in authorities finding a stainless steel .357-caliber handgun, ammunition, a small amount of marijuana, unspecified photographs and letters and papers with phone numbers, including Brock's cell phone number, Hart said

Authorities were able to obtain a search warrant based on CSPC calls between Brown and Lively in regard to bringing drugs into the prison through Brock, Hart said. These calls were intercepted during the CDC investigation of Brock

Due to Brown's residence "not being in the nicest part of town," Hart said, it took some time after Brock's arrest and search at her Bakersfield home to serve the search warrant on Brown's residence.

"The Inglewood Police Department was willing to assist, but only if the SWAT team assisted," Hart said, "and that took a few days to put together."

"It looks as if there were no difficulties during the search warrant" on Brown's home "and nobody else was arrested," Hart said.

Since her arrest, Brown has given extensive interviews to CDC officials, Hart said. Specific details on Brown's interviews were not disclosed "so as not to jeopardize the chance of her getting a fair trial," Hart said

The case involving Brock, Brown and Lively began in the weeks prior to Brock's Feb. 14 arrest. Contact between Lively and Brock began in early December, Hart said, based on witness statement, as well as letters and calls intercepted by prison officials

There was an informant from the prison who alerted (CSPC officials) to keep an eye on Brock because she was having sexual contact with Lively, Hart said. As a result of the tip, prison officials began to do surveillance on Brock and Lively. Investigators intercepted Lively's outgoing mail and went through trash and recorded phone calls that Lively was making. It was soon discovered, Hart said, that the pair were involved in trying to bring narcotics into the prison.

"Basically, Lively was going to split the dope proceeds in prison with" Brock, Hart said.

While monitoring mail, it was also discovered that Brock allegedly solicited the murder of her husband, whose name was not disclosed. Brock allegedly told Lively that she was having marital problems and wanted her husband gone in order to profit from his life insurance, Hart said.

Brock was providing Lively "with descriptions of her husband, his car, work hours, where he hung out and which routes he drove to and from work," Hart said. "Lively agreed to it and they were actually at the point of setting a specific date for it to happen

"Lively was telling (Brock) that he was willing to do it because he loved her."

The murder "was supposed to be done by someone outside of the prison, orchestrated by Lively," said Hart.

There hasn't been any indication that Lively actually set up the murder, he said, "but it would be very hard to detect if he did ... he may have enlisted other inmates" to solicit outside people for the murder.

"Lord only knows if he did it at all anyway, but there is no proof that he did," Hart said. "My best guess is that he was just stringing her along to keep her bringing dope into the prison."

Prison investigators soon gathered enough information against Brock, knew when she was to bring drugs into the prison and pinpointed a specific meeting date between Brown and Brock in Inglewood, Hart said.

CDC authorities prepared a search warrant on Brock's Bakersfield area home, Hart said, and when Brock reported to work on Feb. 14, prison officials simultaneously searched her and her residence.

In Brock's bag, prison officials found inmate-manufactured weapons, such as knives, Hart said. DA's officials allege Brock was holding the weapons for various inmates.

"The reason it is valuable for an inmate to get in good with a correctional officer is then they will know when random searches are going to be made," Hart said. When Brock would find out about the random searches, "she would take their weapons and hide them until the storm passes.

"When the coast is clear, she could bring them back. That way the inmates stay out of trouble because CDC will never find contraband in their cell because they know when a search will take place."

The search warrant on Brock's house produced correspondence between Brock and Lively, as well as a "fairly significant amount of heroin and over a pound of marijuana," Hart said.

Brock, Hart said, was participating with the dope conspiracy, along with sex, because that's "what she felt she needed to do to get Lively to help her out with killing her husband." Brock also claimed to love Lively, Hart said, and continues to write Lively from the Kings County Jail.

Hart said it looks as if further investigation into the case might not be necessary and DA's officials will go on with Brock's and Brown's court proceedings.

"This case really illustrates the dangerousness of the inmates in the California state prisons," Hart said. "This particular inmate (Lively) was extremely manipulative to the extent he could talk Mrs. Brock into throwing away her entire career, exposing herself to incarceration and basically violating every moral value she ever held."

(The reporter may be reached at .)

(March 2, 2004)

Copyright © 2004 Pulitzer Central California Newspapers. All Rights Reserved.,1,7191616.column?coll=la-home-utilities

Union Knows All About Crime, but Nothing About Punishment
Patt Morrison

February 10, 2004

There's this one outfit operating in California's prisons that you don't want to mess with. 

They've got money, and they've got muscle. You squeal on them, you better watch out. You run afoul of them, you better start looking for another line of work.

I speak not of the state's 161,000 convicts — that's a different order of dangerous — but of the union representing the men and women who guard them.

The prison guards' union has managed to make old-line union bosses of the Hoffa mold look wimpy and ham-fisted. This union goes by the unwieldy acronym of CCPOA, California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., and over two decades, the union's budget has been bumped up a dozen-fold. Its freewheeling sick time and overtime policies have turned time cards into ATM gold cards. Veteran guards get a "fitness pay" bonus of $130 a month, but because they found actual fitness tests demeaning, they now get the 130 bucks just on a doctor's say-so that they're fit.

Where do I join?

Its membership is only a tenth of the size of the California Teachers' Assn., which does business by rapping knuckles with rulers, compared to the CCPOA's way of doing business.

Politicians who support the union get rewarded, like Gray Davis, the notorious beneficiary of millions in campaign money. He returned the favor by hefting union salaries by a half-billion bucks over five years, something only one state legislator voted against. Before him it was Pete Wilson, who also got handsome campaign checks with the union logo on them, and whose idea of a lovely parting gift when he left office in 1998 was an 11% pay hike for prison guards.

Politicians who dare to ask why it is the state keeps building prisons, why guards take so much overtime and sick time, why Californians pay so many millions in inmate-abuse lawsuits — well, ask an ugly question, get an ugly answer. The union is willing to spend millions to reward its friends, and to punish those who cross them. It's not quite leaving a horse's head on the pillow, but it makes the point, especially if it's the politician's own head that could be left lying there. 

And that's nothing compared to what they evidently do when their own guys in green turn on them and point out guards who step out of line. Being called "rat" and "snitch" is the least of it. One associate warden who's come down hard on his own operation has asked for protection from the CHP. 

So, there's nothing in it for Republicans to crack the whip on the union. They're the law-and-order party, and who's more law and order than a prison guard? And why tick off the one union that actually likes them?

And there's nothing in it for Democrats to crack the whip, either; they have to prove they're not soft on crime, and how can they be otherwise if they're too hard on the fellows who patrol the prisons?

The public? Grilling the guards doesn't do much for voters who made Three Strikes the 11th Commandment, who figure if a guard gets out of line to keep some thug in line, more power to him.

So who's in charge here?

That's what a lot of pols would like to know, and a lot fewer have the nerve to ask.


If you sped past the televised state Senate hearings as you went trolling for Janet Jackson's breast or "reality" show results or any of the clap and trap that pass for news, then you missed the real thing — crime and punishment, life and death.

You missed a hearing conducted with more security than a Mexican Mafia trial. You didn't hear tearful officials testifying to reprisals and a code of silence. You missed learning about the guard who was ordered to get rid of incriminating audiotaped remarks, and was demoted when he refused. You missed the widow of a captain who was hounded after he questioned his superior's judgment about a possible prison riot, and who committed suicide leaving a note reading, "My job killed me."

Two Democratic state senators ran those hearings — Jackie Speier and Gloria Romero. Today they will announce more hearings for Feb. 26, to find out how rich deals have put some guards into top tax-brackets, and whether union contracts obstruct investigations into wrongdoing. 

In language that sounds like something from one of those Cagney-Bogart prison movies where the inmates call the guards "screws" and talk about being "in stir," someone, says Speier, has put the word to her third-hand that she's "crossed the line."

For anyone considering running for state office in 2006, which is the common wisdom on Speier, this could be bad, or it might be good. I'd think it'd be hard for her to take such a threat seriously after what she's been through. Speier was an aide to a congressman when she was shot and seriously wounded, and he was killed, in the Jim Jones Jonestown massacre of 1978. Her scars give her a kind of talismanic authority on law and order issues. In a vote on assault weapons, a fellow legislator asked whether she'd ever fired such a weapon. No, she said — have you ever been shot by one?

The federal report on the deplorable state of California's prisons was "the most damning public document I think I've ever read," Speier says, and the state's hearings have only confirmed her suspicions of an operation accountable to no agency but itself — "a prescription for disaster," for the union, for the prisoners, and for the state that has to pay for it all.


Six years ago, when Democrat Bill Lockyer was running against Republican David Stirling for the attorney general's job, the state prisons were a mess. 

My Times colleagues were writing story after story about guards using prisoners to discipline other prisoners, guards staging "gladiator" fights for their own amusement, or punishing one inmate by locking him in a cell with a prisoner they knew would rape him. California was the only state where guards could use lethal weapons to stop nonlethal fistfights.

My question back then, at a candidates' debate, was, who will police the police?

Six years later, I'm still asking.

Patt Morrison's columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is . Her earlier columns can be read at


Guards Tell of Retaliation for Informing
Whistle-blowers testify before Senate panel on how their reports of misconduct at state prisons are received.
By Jenifer Warren
Times Staff Writer

January 21, 2004

SACRAMENTO — Guards who witness abuse and other misconduct in California prisons rarely report it for fear of isolation by fellow officers and reprisals from superiors, three current and former Department of Corrections workers testified Tuesday, their voices shaking with emotion.

The testimony came at a daylong Senate hearing on the state's troubled prison system. The whistle-blowers' revelations focused largely on a riot at Folsom State Prison that, an independent watchdog agency found, could have been prevented and was the subject of a cover-up by those charged to investigate it.

The 2002 riot, between rival gangs on the exercise yard, lasted just 90 seconds. But it left 24 inmates injured and one prison guard permanently disabled — and may have played a role in the suicide of another officer.

The fracas also led to the recent firing of Folsom Warden Diana Butler, who was ousted soon after a report on the incident by the state inspector general's office. That report said Butler had bungled the riot's aftermath by failing to discipline any staff or refer the case for possible prosecutions

On Tuesday, Department of Corrections officials acknowledged the problems at Folsom and announced a shake-up involving 10 officials, from deputy warden down to the captain level. Acting Corrections Director Richard Rimmer said that the staff would be temporarily reassigned and that Dave Runnels, the warden at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, would be brought in to run the Folsom lockup temporarily as investigations there continue.

The changes at Folsom come as California's penal system, the nation's largest, weathers a wave of scrutiny, from a scathing report released last week by a federal court master to Tuesday's hearing. 

As an overflow audience looked on, two Democratic senators spent the day hearing testimony from corrections employees and others as part of their effort to reform the vast penal system, which includes 33 prisons and runs on a budget of about $5.3 billion a year.

Sens. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) said their review of the Department of Corrections and its record of tackling wrongdoing by guards has brought threats from those who, in Speier's words, "believe we have gone too far."

But noting that the whistle-blowers who agreed to testify did so fearing for their jobs and personal safety, both lawmakers said they are determined to force changes in the system.

"I am not giving up on this department, not just for the victims and our families, but so too for the inmates who serve their time and the staff who work day in and day out, most of them with great honor and integrity," Romero said.

Heavy security marked the hearing. Witness Max Lemon, an associate warden at Folsom and perhaps the harshest critic of the department, had requested protection from the California Highway Patrol in recent days because of concerns about retaliation.

Opening the hearing was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recently named secretary of youth and adult corrections, Roderick Q. Hickman, who said he was "appalled" by the special master's report.

Hickman, whose appointment must still be confirmed by the Senate, pledged to "restore credibility and confidence" to the penal system and "create an environment where employees feel they can and should report misconduct."

He also acknowledged the senators' concerns about the elimination of the inspector general's office in Schwarzenegger's recently released budget. That office — which produced the critical report on the Folsom riot — is the only independent watchdog that investigates complaints against correctional employees. The governor has proposed re-creating it in a vastly smaller size within Hickman's agency.

"This isn't independence," Speier said. "It's insanity."

But the principal focus of the hearing was a series of cases that the senators believe illustrate obstruction of justice within the department. Most prominent was Folsom.

Witnesses said the riot broke out as the prison began integrating members of two rival gangs who had been locked in their cells for months: the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia. Instead of releasing inmates of each group a few at a time to maintain control and ensure that no fights broke out, more than 80 inmates with gang affiliations were released all at once.

Capt. Douglas Pieper, who was on duty that day, noticed that the release was not going as planned. When he saw Mexican Mafia members moving toward rivals in a threatening manner, he asked Associate Warden Mike Bunnell if he should "shut 'em down," prison code for ordering inmates to lie face down on the ground.

According to a videotape of the event played at the hearing, Bunnell replied, "Not yet." At that point, the melee erupted, with some inmates stabbing one another with makeshift knives.

About a month after the riot, Lt. Sam Cox, who worked in the prison's investigative unit, viewed the tape at a meeting with a Department of Corrections special agent, a district attorney's investigator and a sergeant. Testifying Tuesday, Cox said the special agent commented that the tape "did not reflect favorably" on the prison because "it looked like [the riot] should have been stopped."

Soon after, Cox said, his superior told him to remove the audio portion of the tape. Cox said he refused because "it gave the impression of trying to cover something up." 

"For me, to receive those instructions on the heels of that conversation, it stunk," Cox said. "It didn't pass the test."

Instead, he wrote a memo to Associate Warden Bunnell, who had delayed shutting down the yard just before the riot erupted, explaining what he had done. Bunnell told Cox he had done the right thing, but six weeks later, Cox said, he was transferred without warning to a night shift — "a much less favorable job."

Angry and frustrated, he spoke with Butler, the Folsom warden, about it. She seemed sympathetic and, according to Cox, said he "had just gotten caught up in something." Asked by the senators whether there was a connection between his refusal to alter the tape and his demotion, Cox said, "There's not a doubt in my mind…. It's been catastrophic, I can't tell you. The sleepless nights…. I can tell you at Folsom State Prison I was directly affected by a code of silence."

Pieper, the captain who had anticipated trouble and asked his supervisor if he should shut down the yards, was also affected by the riot, testified his widow, Evette. Pieper committed suicide a year ago. He left a letter that blamed certain employees for the riot and said, "My job killed me."

Evette Pieper said her husband lost 50 pounds after the melee and could not sleep. "He wasn't the same person, it seemed to eat away at him," she said. When he began asking questions about why the riot happened and why it wasn't more fully investigated, she said, Butler threatened him.

Ultimately, he was demoted and pressured to sign a document that said he wanted to change jobs, his widow said.

One day, after his shift, the 46-year-old second-generation prison officer locked himself in his garage and shot himself, leaving his wife, a son and a daughter behind.

"I don't want any other staff member to feel the stress and pressure my husband did, and that ultimately led to his death," Evette Piper said.

The hearing continues today in Sacramento with recommendations for reforms.

Meanwhile, the department confirmed that the warden at the state prison at Lancaster was removed Friday; the warden at Avenal State Prison in Central California retired last week. 

Michael Yarborough, Lancaster's warden since August 2002, was expected to be reassigned within the Department of Corrections. Scott P. Rawers, also appointed warden in August 2002, opted to retire from Avenal after 30 years in the department, corrections officials said.

"It has that appearance" of a housecleaning, said Tip Kindel, assistant secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency. "But I think what the department is doing is taking appropriate action when it finds a problem."

Times staff writer Dan Morain contributed to this report.,1413,88%7E10973%7E1915479,00.html#

Guards at prison formed own gang, report concludes
Study accuses warden at Salinas Valley facility
By Don Thompson
Associated Press 

Monday, January 26, 2004 - SACRAMENTO -- Guards at a California state prison formed their own gang-like organization, inventing hand signals and codes to telegraph their membership to inmates and other officers, state investigators concluded in a confidential report this month. 

The Office of Inspector General found that a group of correctional officers at Salinas Valley State Prison near Soledad formed an alliance in 1999 that they called the "Green Wall," after the color of their uniforms. 

"Numerous incidents" involving the group took place over the next two years, including the vandalizing of prison property with markings of "GW" and "7/23," which stood for the seventh (G) and 23rd (W) letters of the alphabet. 

The Green Wall logo was taped to a control room window: a pair of dice, an upside-down horseshoe with the numbers 7 and 23, and the satanic symbol "666." 

Members developed a hand signal -- fingers folded into the shape of a W -- to "represent" their alliance to inmates and other employees, a whistleblower testified to a joint state Senate committee hearing last week. 

The prison's own internal investigators smuggled into the prison a green-handled knife engraved with "7/23" as a promotion gift for a sergeant, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press. 

The report is sharply critical of Warden Anthony LaMarque, who took command in March 2000 and remains the warden there. 

LaMarque had a special relationship with several members of the prison's internal affairs unit, the report found: He ignored reports that they might be involved in the Green Wall, and refused to transfer them during an investigation of allegations that they used excessive force against inmates and engaged in other misconduct. 

LaMarque was "evasive" when he was questioned about the Green Wall, and falsely said the Monterey County district attorney was probing the organization, the report said. It said he admitted knowing about the organization, but didn't try to find out what it was or who belonged. 

The Jan. 5 report was sent to the California Department of Corrections for "appropriateaction," but department spokesman Bob Martinez said he couldn't comment because the report is supposed to be confidential. 

Former internal affairs officer Donald J. Vodicka, a hulking man with a shaved head, was so frightened after he blew the whistle on the Green Wall that he wore a bulletproof vest and repeatedly burst into tears while testifying before the joint Senate hearing last week. 

He alleged members of the Green Wall employed a "code of silence" to hide activities including roughing up inmates after several guards were injured on Thanksgiving Day 1998. The organization grew out of that event, with green-attired members eventually throwing parties featuring green beer on the 7th and 23rd days of the month.

The inspector general was unable to verify claims that members of the Green Wall set up inmates for assaults, vandalized cars of fellow employees who were not members, or intimidated other staff members. 

Lance Corcoran, vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said a vehicle belonging to Eugene "Gino" Carranza, president of the union's Salinas Valley Prison chapter, was vandalized after he reported wrongdoing by two supervisors at the prison in 1999 or 2000. 

"These guys who do crap like that, they're cowards and we don't support them at all," Corcoran said. "It was the Sharks at Corcoran (State Prison), maybe we'll have the Jets (as in "West Side Story"). Now we have the Green Wall; it doesn't matter what moniker we have for it." 

A March 2001 internal memo by Carranza says the Green Wall also was known as "Seven Twenty-Three" and "Code of Silence." 

Carranza reported members greeted each other with a signature hug, and sometimes wore turkey pins on their uniforms to symbolize the Thanksgiving event that gave the group its start. 

Department spokesman Martinez said new Youth and Adult Correctional Secretary Roderick Hickman, in testimony to the Senate committees, "made it very, very clear this is something he's pledged to deal with, to confront in a relentless way, and to get rid of."
State Prison Guards Had Their Own 'Gang-Like' System 
POSTED: 2:48 PM PST January 25, 2004

SACRAMENTO -- Guards at a California state prison formed their own gang-like organization, inventing hand signals and codes to telegraph their membership to inmates and other officers, state investigators concluded in a confidential report this month.

The Office of Inspector General found that a group of correctional officers at Salinas Valley State Prison near Soledad formed an alliance in 1999 that they called the "Green Wall," after the color of their uniforms.

"Numerous incidents" involving the group took place over the next two years, including the vandalizing of prison property with markings of "GW" and "7/23," which stood for the seventh (G) and 23rd (W) letters of the alphabet.

The Green Wall logo was taped to a control room window: a pair of dice, an upside-down horseshoe with the numbers 7 and 23, and the satanic symbol "666."

Members developed a hand signal -- fingers folded into the shape of a W -- to "represent" their alliance to inmates and other employees, a whistleblower testified to a joint state Senate committee hearing last week.

The prison's own internal investigators smuggled into the prison a green-handled knife engraved with "7/23" as a promotion gift for a sergeant, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The report is sharply critical of Warden Anthony LaMarque, who took command in March 2000 and remains the warden there.

LaMarque had a special relationship with several members of the prison's internal affairs unit, the report found: He ignored reports that they might be involved in the Green Wall, and refused to transfer them during an investigation of allegations that they used excessive force against inmates and engaged in other misconduct.

LaMarque was "evasive" when he was questioned about the Green Wall, and falsely said the Monterey County district attorney was probing the organization, the report said. It said he admitted knowing about the organization, but didn't try to find out what it was or who belonged.

The warden "wouldn't be able to comment because it's pending litigation right now," said prison spokesman Lt. Eloy Medina.

The Jan. 5 report was sent to the California Department of Corrections for "appropriate action," but department spokesman Bob Martinez said he couldn't comment because the report is supposed to be confidential.

Former internal affairs officer Donald J. Vodicka, a hulking man with a shaved head, was so frightened after he blew the whistle on the Green Wall that he wore a bulletproof vest and repeatedly burst into tears while testifying before the joint Senate hearing last week.

Vodicka sued the state and corrections officials in September for allegedly violating his whistleblower rights by retaliating against him with a demotion, defamation, and infliction of emotional distress. He is currently on a medical disability leave.

He alleged members of the Green Wall employed a "code of silence" to hide activities including roughing up inmates after several guards were injured on Thanksgiving Day 1998. The organization grew out of that event, with green-attired members eventually throwing parties featuring green beer on the 7th and 23rd days of the month.

The inspector general was unable to verify claims that members of the Green Wall set up inmates for assaults, vandalized cars of fellow employees who were not members, or intimidated other staff members.

Lance Corcoran, vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said a vehicle belonging to Eugene "Gino" Carranza, president of the union's Salinas Valley Prison chapter, was vandalized after he reported wrongdoing by two supervisors at the prison in 1999 or 2000.

"These guys who do crap like that, they're cowards and we don't support them at all," Corcoran said. "It was the Sharks at Corcoran (State Prison), maybe we'll have the Jets (as in "West Side Story"). Now we have the Green Wall; it doesn't matter what moniker we have for it."

A March 2001 internal memo by Carranza says the Green Wall also was known as "Seven Twenty-Three" and "Code of Silence."

Carranza reported members greeted each other with a signature hug, and sometimes wore turkey pins on their uniforms to symbolize the Thanksgiving event that gave the group its start.

Department spokesman Martinez said new Youth and Adult Correctional Secretary Roderick Hickman, in testimony to the Senate committees, "made it very, very clear this is something he's pledged to deal with, to confront in a relentless way, and to get rid of." 
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Editorial: Prisons in crisis

Time to wrest control from guards' union

Bee Editorial Staff - (Published January 19, 2004)
Held in the grip of a powerful prison guards union, the Department of Corrections has been spiraling out of control for years. A new report released last week by a special master appointed by a federal judge provides details of how bad things have gotten.

In probing the conduct of state officials in the case of two officers who were convicted in federal court of assaulting inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison, prison expert John Hagar found evidence of perjury and coverup at the highest levels of the department.

"It is apparent," Hagar said in his report, "that top officials of the Department of Corrections neither understand nor care about the need for fair investigation, nor are they likely to impose discipline in the face of \[California Correctional Peace Officers Association\] objections."

Inmates are not the only ones put at risk by the department's ineptitude and willingness to bow to the demands of the union. Hagar's report describes how honest prison guards who attempt to report misconduct by fellow officers risk isolation and retaliation, while top-level officials at the department condone and cover up. Hagar points a finger at the very top. He recommends that criminal charges be filed against former Department of Corrections Director Edward Alameida and the department's former chief of investigations, Thomas Moore.

While the report limits itself to the shortcomings of the department, the source of the prison crisis that threatens inmates, guards and the public, too, extends to the governor's office and the Legislature.

CCPOA generously bankrolled the election campaigns for former governors Gray Davis and Pete Wilson and contributed heavily to the campaigns of key members of the Legislature. Even as the state teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, the Davis administration negotiated, and legislators ratified, a contract in 2002 that gave prison guards pay raises of 37 percent over five years and gave to the union unprecedented power to control personnel decisions and even discipline within the prisons.

In key areas, the authority of wardens was subordinated to union bosses at prison sites.

Prosecution of criminal behavior by top-level administrators will not be enough to reform the Department of Corrections. The new governor must work with the Legislature to wrest control of the prisons from the union.

Together they must reassert the authority of responsible managers to operate prisons in the public interest, not as private fiefdoms for the guards union.

State Sen. Gloria Romero will hold hearings on problems in the prison system. That presents a useful opportunity for lawmakers to take the lead in reforming corrections in California. If they don't, it will be up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or the courts. But one way or another, the state and its citizens must regain control of the prison system.

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee,1,4804834.story?coll=la-home-local

Potent Prison Guards Union Facing Challenges to Status Quo
A biting report on penal system, governor's call for concessions confront 'untouchable' labor group.
By Dan Morain
Times Staff Writer

January 18, 2004

SACRAMENTO — More often than not, the union that represents California's prison guards has won its battles.

On election day, union-backed candidates usually have been victorious. In the Legislature, union lobbyists have killed bills they saw as threats. At the bargaining table, union negotiators have gained lucrative pay and benefit packages. Representing 31,000 current and retired prison officers, the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. repeatedly has proved itself to be among the most potent interest groups in state politics.

But last week, a federal court officer landed what one top union executive called a "sucker punch" in the form of an 85-page report by John Hagar, a special master assigned by a federal judge to help oversee court-ordered changes at the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison.

Hagar's report describes a code of silence among officers, refers to the "long arm of CCPOA's influence over the highest level" in the California Department of Corrections and alleges that the union repeatedly has sought to derail internal affairs investigations.

A "minority of rogue officers" can establish a code of silence and "create an overall atmosphere of deceit and corruption," the report said. "And if the minority are supported by a powerful labor organization, and the union as well as management condones the code of silence, the consequences are severe."

The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. has weathered past storms, surviving federal and state investigations and oversight hearings in the 1990s, when officers were accused of abuse and had shot and killed more than 30 inmates.

But the Hagar report is an unwelcome glare for a union entering new territory. The union has a new president, Mike Jimenez, who took over last year from Don Novey, the fedora-wearing union boss who took office in 1980 and built the organization into a powerhouse. And it lost a champion when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ousted Gov. Gray Davis in last fall's election — though the union did cushion the fall by spending no money to help Davis fend off the historic recall.

The Republican governor is now calling on the union to make concessions to help ease the state's budget woes. One way moneyed interests forge political alliances — donating campaign money — may not work with Schwarzenegger. He has a policy against taking contributions from public employee unions.

"He will deal forthrightly with them without any question of any inappropriate influence," said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director. "They don't have any influence with the governor, other than the fact that they are a rightfully constituted bargaining unit."

The union will not be left out in the cold, however. The governor carved out a half-hour for a "get-acquainted" session with Jimenez in November. 

Heading into the 2004 campaign, the union sits atop $2.34 million, ready to be doled to candidates who curry the union's favor. Although Schwarzenegger won't take the union's money, the California Republican Party is expecting the union to make good on a pledge to give the GOP $250,000 for the 2004 election.

The union also has alliances with Schwarzenegger's friends. It spent nearly $1 million in 1990 to help elect Gov. Pete Wilson, one of Schwarzenegger's political mentors. Wilson awarded an 11% raise to the union on his way out of office in 1998. Seamlessly crossing party lines, the union spent $2 million in direct and indirect donations to help Democrat Davis win election in 1998, then gave him another $1.4 million in his first term.

Robert Stern, a campaign finance expert and head of the nonprofit Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, called the union "untouchable."

"My guess is that he is not going to want to alienate a group like the prison guards, and they won't want to alienate him," Stern said.

Few elected officials disparage the union publicly. Those who do so risk their jobs. At least, that's the perception. The union has reacted in the past by sending five- and six-figure donations to opposition candidates, or digging up unpleasant facts to derail candidates who fall out of favor.

"There is a very definite sense that if you cross them, you may pay a price," said campaign consultant Darry Sragow, who represents Assembly Democrats. Sragow counsels legislators to follow their conscience. If they must challenge the guards, he suggests that they go gently.

"It is great to have CCPOA on your side," Sragow said. "If you can't get them on your side, it is imperative that they not be on the other side…. Try not to get in their face."

These days, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) is holding oversight hearings, along with Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). On Tuesday, their committee will meet to review Hagar's report, which the judge could ultimately refer to federal prosecutors or use to order prison reforms. In an interview, Speier said a "third party" relayed to her that in the union's view, she had "crossed the line" with her investigations.

"I'm not naive," said Speier, who is contemplating running for statewide office in 2006. "I realize that this is taking on an interest that has had extra power in multiple administrations of both parties…. If the prison guards come after me, so be it."

Union Vice President Lance Corcoran called Speier's comments "absolutely ludicrous."

"Sen. Speier is doing what she thinks is right," Corcoran said. "We assume she will be open-minded. If she has already made up her mind, that is problematic."

Corcoran defended the union's right to donate to candidates who "are willing to listen to our issues." He listed measures the union advocates: stricter background checks for recruits, better training in academies and peace officer status.

In the two decades since it won the right to represent prison workers, the union also has set out to burnish the image of correctional officers. The union funds crime victims groups and sponsors an annual crime victims' day at the Capitol.

In any year, it is among the most striking of all Capitol park demonstrations. On that day, the union and victims' rights advocates arrange hundreds of white cardboard coffins on the lawn outside the west steps. Victims' families display poster-size photos of loved ones who have been murdered. Political leaders make a point of showing up.

Prison officers walk, according to the union's motto, "the toughest beat in the state." Stab-proof vests protect them from most mortal wounds. Far more police officers have been killed than correctional officers, 28 of whom have died in the line of duty.

How much sway does the union have with management in the Department of Corrections?

"They dictate basically every move any warden that I've been associated with makes," a high-ranking Department of Corrections official said, speaking on the condition that he not be identified. "There's not a policy at the local or headquarters level that isn't reviewed by CCPOA."

Their influence is "certainly good for the rank and file." But it hampers managers' ability to run prisons efficiently, the official said, citing one seemingly minor provision in the latest labor contract, negotiated in late 2001 by the Davis administration and ratified in 2002 by the state Legislature — with only a single no vote. The contract stripped managers of one of the few tools they had to limit the use of sick leave. The labor pact permits officers to call in sick without a doctor's note confirming the illness. With the new policy in place, officers called in sick 500,000 more hours in 2002 than in 2001, a 27% increase.

The heavy use of sick leave by some officers forced prison managers to require officers to work additional overtime to cover all the posts. At least 110 prison officers used overtime pay to make more than $100,000 in 2002. One made more than $145,000 in 2002, records provided by the state controller's office last year show. Altogether, the state's correctional officers punched in $200 million worth of overtime in 2002 — 25% more than in 2000.

The union's moves leading up to that contract show the influence it had with the Davis administration. The dance began in late 2001, before the 2002 gubernatorial election campaign was in full swing.

Novey, then the union's president, was meeting in the union's West Sacramento office with one of Davis' closest aides, Michael Yamaki. As it happened, Novey's next appointment was with former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, then contemplating a run against Davis for governor.

Yamaki and Riordan, seeing one another, then chatted about golf, as Novey recalled it. But of course, the conversation had little to do with recreation. Rather, Novey left the impression that there was at least a possibility that the union might endorse Riordan in the 2002 campaign.

The following week, Davis summoned Novey to a meeting to discuss the union's contract.

Based on what Novey and others said, here's what happened: Novey was kept waiting, seemingly grew impatient, and left. Davis, learning that Novey had walked off, dispatched a member of his security detail, a California Highway Patrol officer, to bring Novey back to the governor's office. Like many in the prison union, Novey views the CHP as a rival.

"Can you imagine a highway patrolman stopping me?" said Novey, who kept walking.

Then one of Davis' aides tried to mollify Novey, offering him a gift of a dozen golf balls signed by Davis. Novey was unimpressed: "I got signed golf balls by Reagan. Give me a break."

It was all part of the strategy. As the contract talks opened, Novey was almost flippant, telling administration officials that any smart union leader knows to wait until an election year to negotiate labor contracts, officials said privately at the time.

Novey could not be reached for this article. But in past interviews, he said he had been striving for years to attain parity with the CHP, contending that correctional officers have a far more difficult job. In the current contract, prison guards will gain pay parity with the highway patrol.

"Highway patrol gets all this candy," Novey said, then added sarcastically: "Their job is more dangerous. They give traffic tickets."

In the early 1980s, when Novey took control of the union, the top pay for veteran guards was $21,000 a year. Within a decade, the top pay was $44,676. By 2006, when the current contract expires, the pay is expected to reach $73,248 a year.


The Guards Own the Gates

November 24, 2003

Teppan-yaki feasts, cliff-diving ceremonies at historic Black Rock and mai tais served at a 142-yard swimming pool are some of the festivities awaiting the more than two dozen California state legislators who began arriving today at a Kaanapali Beach resort in Maui for a junket sponsored by California's powerful prison guards union.

State Sen. Jim Battin (R-La Quinta), who will be paying for the trip from his campaign account, says it's merely "an organized opportunity for legislators to get away in a relaxed and informal atmosphere." This is the same Jim Battin who has taken $15,500 in contributions from the union in three years. The evidence is overwhelming that state politicians who have received big money (in addition to pleasant holidays) from the union have done its bidding. Take Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who attended last year's luau but not this one, perhaps because as a top advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger he is too busy to get away. The union has showered Brulte with at least $114,000 in campaign contributions in the last three years and he is trying to persuade the governor to close the state's last five private prisons -- nonunion shops that the guards union views as a job threat.

The guards' domination would not be so disastrous if the union supported the training, counseling and education programs that keep communities safer by reducing inmates' relapse into crime after their release. But the union has fought reforms with a might and unity that few other labor organizations can muster.

Last year, for example, then-Gov. Gray Davis, who had received $3.4 million from the guards union since 1998, persuaded legislators to shutter four of the state's nine private prisons and to cut prison vocational programs. The cuts left more money to raise the average prison guard's salary by 37.2% over three years, to $73,428 by 2006. That's more than twice the average salary in the next-highest-paying state. The average California teacher salary is about $54,000. The guards' contract eliminates virtually all restrictions on sick leave; the union also undermined oversight by successfully pressing for a big cut in the inspector general's budget.

Now, the union is trying to terminate college and vocational education programs in prisons statewide. Schwarzenegger should question why the state would want to close all of its private prisons when the best of them provide drug treatment, counseling and moral and vocational education for $55 a day -- a bargain compared with the $78 a day for just a bed at a minimum-security public prison. Private prisons have had their problems, including a riot last month at the Eagle Mountain men's prison in which two inmates were killed. Yet they provide laboratories for change, for reforms the public prisons shun.

The union's usual response to critics is that its members have America's toughest jobs. Their jobs, however, are made tougher by the union's knee-jerk opposition to therapeutic and educational programs, like those in other states, that also reduce prisoners' fury and make them more controllable.

The ultimate victims of this feudal control of the state's prisons are the law-abiding people, often poor, who live and work in the neighborhoods in which prisoners are released, full of anger and devoid of skills.

The elected officials so hungry for the guards' campaign donations have been incapable of changing the system. The new governor, however, is already making changes at the top of the corrections bureaucracy and may prove himself able to say "No."

Prisons chief halted probe, now faces one
Pelican Bay brutality case raises suspicion of officers' perjury.
By Claire Cooper -- Bee Legal Affairs Writer - (Published November 15, 2003)
SAN FRANCISCO - Last March the director of California's prison system terminated a probe of correctional officers who may have lied in federal court to protect colleagues being prosecuted for setting up assaults on inmates.

On Friday, Corrections Director Edward Alameida himself must appear in the same federal courtroom to explain why.

The current inquiry stems from the convictions last year of two abusive Pelican Bay State Prison correctional officers, a rare development in a prison system where a code of silence is said to shield officers' actions.

Afterward, a federal prosecutor referred to the Department of Corrections cases in which officers may have perjured themselves as witnesses in that trial. The department opened a disciplinary investigation with some evidence in hand - for example, statements from retired officers that they had been aware of specific abuses and cover-ups.

But then, with just two witnesses interviewed, Alameida ordered the probe shut down. The meeting at which he gave the order was scheduled one day after an investigator notified the officers' union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, that a case would be referred to the San Francisco district attorney for consideration of a criminal prosecution.

Now Alameida will testify in the federal court's investigation of the aborted probe. Others who participated in the fateful meeting in his conference room have been giving sworn testimony since July. The focus is on the department's leadership and the union's influence.

Alameida already is under scrutiny by two state Senate committees for his handling of reported abuses by correctional officers at a prison in Chino - he tried to shut down the office that was investigating.

The state's inspector general also has been critical of the department's personnel discipline system, reporting, for example, that managers missed the statute of limitations for filing misconduct charges in 43 percent of cases. A new Office of the Inspector General report, uncovered by The Bee this week, raises questions about official actions before, during and after a riot at Folsom State Prison.

In the Pelican Bay case, however, personnel misconduct is no longer a matter of conjecture. The question is the extent of it.

Alameida reopened the Pelican Bay probe in July with a projected fall finish date. He could announce the results from the witness stand. Although the statute of limitations now bars administrative discipline in the Pelican Bay cases, correctional officers could be prosecuted in criminal court.

Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Alameida was reserving comment until he testifies.

He won't be handled gently.

"No one questions the fact that the investigations that were recently shut down involve the worst form of the code of silence, perjury in federal court," wrote John Hagar, the court official who has conducted the hearings.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson in 1995 found that officers' brutality at Pelican Bay was implicitly sanctioned by management. He appointed Hagar as special master to oversee operations at the Del Norte County institution.

In a July report to Henderson, Hagar said the explanation for the aborted perjury probe had to be "either gross negligence by the highest level CDC officials and their attorneys or a deliberate attempt to mislead the court."

"I want to get to the bottom of this, the very bottom," Henderson told Hagar.

Transcripts of Hagar's hearing reveal that witnesses have disagreed about whether the bottom involves something more sinister than negligence.

Probably the most damaging testimony has come from Corrections Department lawyer Joseph Barbara and department investigators Robert Ballard and Jose Reynoso, who confirmed key portions of each others' accounts.

Reynoso testified about a reported assault on an inmate in a chapel hallway by Edward Powers, one of the two officers convicted last year.

Several officers had testified in Powers' trial that no assault occurred. But another, James Mather, who had supported Powers during a prison inquiry into the incident, retired, left California and then told the FBI "the same identical story" as the complaining inmate, Reynoso said.

Ballard said he didn't pursue that complaint because a Pelican Bay lieutenant informed him the inmate was mentally ill. Hagar reported to Henderson that the inmate had no mental illness.

Barbara and Ballard told Hagar about a different incident. They said they interviewed retired correctional officer William Schembri and concluded he would make a credible witness in a perjury case against officer William Jones.

Schembri's story: One day before an inmate stabbed another on Powers' orders, Jones alerted Schembri and told him to look the other way. An officer who was in the gun tower with Schembri confirmed that the conversation occurred. But Jones testified to the contrary at Powers' trial.

Barbara said he thought there was enough evidence to prosecute Jones for perjury. He said a high-ranking department lawyer agreed.

Ballard testified that on March 24, he left a phone message for CCPOA's lawyer, saying he was "taking at least one case criminal." The next day, Ballard said, he was told to report for a meeting with Alameida on March 27 to discuss cases on which the investigation had focused. At the meeting, Barbara said, Alameida asked, "Is this a good case or a bad case?" Barbara said he replied: "I have taken a lot worst cases to hearing. … I told him I could try the case."

According to Barbara, Alameida slammed his fist into his other palm and said something like, "Let's make it go away." Ballard reported a similar scene, though another meeting participant testified that Alameida "is not that type of emotional person."

There has been inconsistent testimony on more basic issues. For example, several who attended the meeting said they were given the impression that none of the cases was strong.

Nobody was saying, "I can win this case," testified Dennis Beaty, a department lawyer. He said the participants reached a consensus that "there wasn't enough to proceed."

Even Barbara testified that he felt the Jones case wasn't "the strongest case in the world," putting the odds of winning a criminal conviction at "50-50."

Barbara also testified that Alameida was troubled by the decade-long gap between the reported assaults and the perjury investigation. "I think it was a fairness issue," Barbara said.

Others said they were unaware until recently that the perjury probe hadn't been completed.

Thomas Moore, who heads the Corrections Department's investigative unit, also attended Alameida's meeting. Asked why he didn't "pull the cord" then and point out that the facts weren't in, Moore said, "Given the facts as I know them today, I would pull the cord not once but twice."

Brian Parry, a retired department investigations official who returned to work on the case, said he knew of no other instance in which a director had closed an incomplete investigation.

Although the federal court hearings have failed to produce an undisputed explanation, the CCPOA's influence has been called into question repeatedly.

Parry, who urged that discipline cases be handled outside the Corrections Department, said he has suspected the union of fostering a code of silence.

"Officers who are in a situation might band together and decide that they are not going to tell the truth," he said.

Reynoso put it more bluntly. "The control of the (department's internal investigations unit) itself cannot, cannot be done by the director's office as long as that office has the influence of the CCPOA," he said.

Lance Corcoran, the union's executive vice president, said in an interview that "the allegations that CCPOA interfered with the investigation are completely without merit."

"We're going to poke holes in an investigation - that's our job," Corcoran said. But shutting one down, he said, is "not a tack that we would normally take."

About the Writer

The Bee's Claire Cooper can be reached at (415) 551-7701 or .

Corrections director summoned to testify 
Federal inquiry seeks Pelican Bay answers 
Mark Martin, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
Monday, November 3, 2003 
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback

Sacramento -- A federal inquiry into a decision by California prison officials to shut down a criminal investigation of guards at Pelican Bay State Prison will focus this month on the state's director of corrections, who has been summoned to testify about why he intervened in the investigation. 

Edward Alameida, who oversees California's $5 billion prison system, faces scrutiny in a federal courtroom in San Francisco over his role in halting probes into whether prison guards lied to protect other guards accused of attacking and allowing attacks on Pelican Bay inmates. 

Alameida is expected to be questioned about a meeting he participated in that led an internal affairs agent to drop the perjury investigation. The director also will be asked whether he indicated he wanted to "make this (the cases) go away,'' at that meeting as some contend, and if the powerful state prison guards union had any influence in stopping the probe. 

The testimony will mark the second time this year Alameida has faced public questioning over a botched investigation of prison guards. And it comes as two state senators prepare to hold five days of hearings in Sacramento in January to dissect several aspects of operations within the corrections department that they believe are costly to taxpayers and poorly managed. 

Prisoner advocates say the case unfolding in San Francisco illustrates how a union that lavishes millions of dollars on politicians has transformed its political clout into more control within the state's 33 prisons. Union officials dismiss the charge as nonsense. 

"Too many times I get the impression that the union's political power translates into real power at the institutional level,'' said Steve Fama, an attorney with the Prison Law Office in San Rafael. 

Fama has been involved with a nearly decadelong effort to revamp policies and procedures at Pelican Bay, the notorious maximum-security prison in rural Northern California. A federal judge ruled in 1995 that poor medical care and a pattern of brutality by guards violated the civil rights of inmates, and the prison has been the subject of federal oversight ever since. 

Guards set up inmate fights 

The perjury probe stems from a federal trial last year in which two Pelican Bay guards, Edward Powers and Jose Garcia, were convicted of beating inmates and setting up inmate fights. Federal prosecutors turned over information to state corrections officials indicating at least three guards lied under oath during the trial about their knowledge of Powers' and Garcia's actions. 

At issue is how corrections officials appear to have violated recently adopted procedures for investigating wrongdoing by guards. The shutdown of the perjury investigations, and letters to federal officials explaining why the probes were stopped "raise questions of either gross negligence by the highest level CDC (California Department of Corrections) officials and their attorneys, 

or a deliberate attempt to mislead the Court,'' wrote John Hagar, the special master appointed by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson to oversee operations at Pelican Bay. 

Hagar will eventually write a report summing up the perjury probes and make recommendations to Henderson about what to do. He could suggest CDC officials be held in contempt of court. 

Hours of testimony in hearings held so far on the matter offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the state corrections department. They illustrate a code of silence among guards unwilling to speak out about wrongdoing in prisons. They also show just how much sway the guards' union has in department operations. 

An internal affairs agent testified that a guard who was allegedly involved in the beating of an inmate told the truth only after he quit his job and moved out of California. 

"He could not come forward as an employee of the Department of Corrections for fear of his own safety until he knew that he wouldn't suffer repercussion of the Department of Corrections or the union,'' the agent, Jose Reynoso, said about a guard involved in the perjury probe. 

Alameida will face questioning about his involvement in a series of events in March that led to corrections officials dropping perjury cases against three guards. 

In one case a guard allegedly told another to "look away'' at a specific time to avoid seeing the attack but later denied under oath the conversation ever took place, according to Department of Corrections memos. Two other guards insist the conversation happened. 

Internal affairs agent Bob Ballard described how he was days away from handing the case over to San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan's office for criminal prosecution when he was instructed to drop the case. 

Ballard had been in occasional contact with an attorney with the guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, about his investigation. The attorney had helped set up interviews with guards. Ballard testified that he notified the attorney he would not need to interview other guards and that he was pursuing a criminal case against a guard. 

A rare meeting 

Within 24 hours, Ballard testified, he was called for a rare meeting with Alameida and several other high-ranking CDC officials to discuss the case. 

"We ... talked about how it was pretty unusual that I notify the union that I am taking a criminal case and I am not talking to any of their guys, and immediately the next day the director wanted to talk to me,'' Ballard said in recounting a conversation he had with other internal affairs agents. 

Testimony from several people who were at the meeting offer conflicting accounts of what was said. Both Ballard and CDC attorney Joseph Barbara say they presented their evidence, suggesting the cases were worth pursuing, but Alameida indicated the department should drop the probe. 

Ballard said he recalled Alameida saying, "How do we make this go away?'' 

But other corrections officials at the meeting say those directly involved in the probe did not make a strong pitch to move forward. 

"The impression I had formed was that it wasn't a strong case,'' said Dennis Beaty, another attorney with the corrections department who attended the meeting. 

Through a CDC spokeswoman, Alameida declined to comment for this story. 

Fama, who is allowed to question witnesses during the hearings, said he will ask Alameida about his reported statements and a comment he made at the end of the meeting. Previous testimony indicates Alameida instructed another CDC official to call a vice president of the union to inform him that the department was dropping its investigations. 

"The question is what contact was there between the union and Alameida -- 

what was said,'' Fama said. 

Lance Corcoran, an executive vice president of the union, said the union never discussed the perjury cases with Alameida. 

Fama also noted that the meeting with the director was unusual and not part of the protocol for internal affairs' probes. 

"The director shouldn't be involved in the nitty-gritty of investigations, '' Fama said. 

Hagar, the federally appointed official overseeing the hearings, declined to comment for this story but issued a sternly worded report in July about the dropped perjury investigations. 

"The inadequate investigation appears to be, from what has been provided, yet another indication of inexcusable management,'' he wrote. 

The hearings mirror in some ways hearings held this summer into a stalled probe of guards at a state prison in Chino that led state Sens. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, to vow to "shake up'' operations in the corrections department. The two plan on holding extensive hearings in January. 

The Chino hearings involved allegations that as many as 20 guards, some participating and some watching, beat and kicked five prisoners whose hands and feet were bound. 

Internal affairs agents began an investigation of that incident, but claim that they were stymied by union interference and that high-ranking corrections officials retaliated against them for being too aggressive by reassigning them and planning to eliminate their jobs. 

Internal affairs agents in both the Pelican Bay and Chino investigations have complained they were hampered by a clause in the contract signed last year between the union and Gov. Gray Davis. The contract has been lambasted for giving big raises to guards, and Davis received a $251,000 contribution from the union within a month of signing the deal. 

Guards get access 

The contract allows guards to obtain information being collected against them in internal affairs probes. Investigators say the clause discourages whistle-blowers in prisons and the demands for paperwork slow down investigations. 

"They can essentially obstruct justice under the mantle of the contract, '' said John Scott, a San Francisco attorney who represented internal affairs agents in the Chino case. 

Corcoran, the union executive, dismissed that charge, however, saying guards must still submit to internal affairs questions. He argued that the clause limits the evidence the union can obtain. 

Corcoran also disputes any contention that the union has undue influence in the department, saying he wished they had more influence. 

"We're far more forward-thinking, and have lots of ideas to lessen the bureaucratic inefficiencies in the department,'' he said, noting the union in the past pushed for things like background checks for guards. 

Fallout from the aborted perjury investigations has already begun. The head of internal affairs has been reassigned to the parole department, and the cases have been reopened. 

Alameida and three other top CDC officials will testify Nov. 21. 

E-mail the writer at,1,5143928.story

Prison Guards Suspected in Plots to Smuggle Drugs
Two are suspended at Lancaster facility. One is arrested, the other is under investigation. 
By Richard Fausset 
Times Staff Writer 

April 8, 2003 

Two correctional officers at the California State Prison in Lancaster have been suspended for their suspected involvement in plots to smuggle drugs into Los Angeles County's only maximum-security prison, officials said Monday. 

A third officer has also been suspended indefinitely after his off-duty arrest on a misdemeanor drug charge in February. However, prison officials say they are not concerned about the possibility of any broader corruption at the facility, where approximately 600 corrections officers guard more than 4,000 of the state's most dangerous criminals. 

"It happens once in a while," said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections. "It happens in almost every walk of life, where you get some people who do things they shouldn't." 

Nine-year state corrections veteran Dwayne Brewton was arrested March 14 on conspiracy charges for his alleged involvement in a plan to sell drugs and cell phones to inmates, prison spokesman Lt. Ken Lewis said. Acting on a tip, prison investigators searched a suspected drug pick-up point for Brewton and found 39 grams of marijuana, 1 gram of heroin and 3.5 grams of crack cocaine, Lewis said. 

On Feb. 26, prison officials suspended another veteran guard who works in the prison office that receives packages sent to inmates. The officer allegedly approved the delivery of a 7.8-pound package of marijuana valued at $250,000 to an inmate without searching it first, and investigators believe the oversight may have been deliberate, said Capt. Carl Wofford of Lancaster's internal investigations unit. The officer has not been arrested or charged, but Wofford said his office is preparing a case for review by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. 

A third officer, 10-year veteran Michael Colino, was arrested Feb. 7 by San Fernando police during a traffic stop that turned up a small amount of marijuana, Lewis said. Colino, 32, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance and has agreed to enter a drug treatment program, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Denton. 

All three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave while investigations continue, officials said. A number of inmates are also being investigated for the smuggling incidents, Lewis said. 

The incidents come as corrections officials are making a concerted effort to crack down on drug abuse in state prisons. About 85% of California's 160,000 inmates were addicted to drugs or alcohol when they committed their crimes, prison officials say. 

In the last seven years, the Corrections Department has increased from 400 to 8,500 the number of prison beds set aside for substance-abuse treatment. At Lancaster, officials have been trying to stop the production of homemade prison wine by limiting prisoners' access to fresh fruit, one of the preferred ingredients for the homemade drink known as pruno. 

Heimerich said most of the contraband that passes through prison gates comes from visitors and packages. But parents of inmates believe much of it is brought in by corrections officers. 

Last month, inmates' rights groups rejoiced when a bill to limit the packages family members can send to inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison died in the Senate's Public Safety Committee. On Monday, the father of a Lancaster inmate said the recent investigations justified the groups' position. 

"They are blaming all the drugs coming in by the mail.... But the [officers] don't mind the drugs in there because it keeps [the inmates] calm," said the father, who said he feared retaliation against his son if he revealed his identity. "They give them drugs to keep them quiet." 

At Lancaster, the last known incident of a guard smuggling drugs was in 2001, when the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, while conducting a sting operation, found drugs in the lunch pail of corrections officer Anthony Lunnon, Lewis said. Lunnon was sentenced to two years in prison. 

 Lengthy sentence likely for ex-prison guard

 Live and Times of a Correctional Officer - Florida

 Guard Brutality

 Three Strikes Legal - Index

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