Veteran state prosecutor appointed prison watchdog
By Don Thompson
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named a veteran state prosecutor as his new watchdog over the state's troubled prison system Tuesday, nearly two months after firing the previous inspector general and proposing to merge the independent office into the agency it is supposed to oversee.
Schwarzenegger reversed his earlier proposal to merge the inspector general's office into the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency after legislators sharply objected.
The governor tapped California Department of Justice attorney Matthew Cate, 37, of Elk Grove, as his new inspector general.
The appointment comes amid sharp criticism of the state's adult prison system as operating under what a federal court-appointed monitor termed a "code of silence" that protects wrongdoers and punishes whistleblowers.
Most recently, about 40 Corcoran State Prison guards have refused to talk to Kings County prosecutors about the night a 58-year-old dialysis patient bled to death in his cell as guards reportedly watched the Super Bowl and ignored his screams for hours.
Cate said in a statement he will work with Schwarzenegger "to help restore public confidence" in the correctional system.
Cate said he is "committed to ensuring a system of accountability and integrity where prisoners, guards and the public can trust that the law is followed and public safety is top priority."
Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Cate's boss at the state Justice Department, said Schwarzenegger's choice "demonstrates to me that he's serious about good oversight of California's prison and parole system."
He called Cate "one of the state's most gifted prosecutors," noting he served two state attorneys general of different political parties. Lockyer is a Democrat and Cate and Schwarzenegger are both Republicans.
Cate has been supervising deputy attorney general since 1996, focusing on political and public corruption cases.
He led the attorney general's high-profile investigations into the activities of Chuck Quackenbush, the California insurance commissioner who resigned in scandal in 2000, and into former Gov. Gray Davis' since-recinded, six-year, $95 million no-bid contract with Oracle Corp. for computer software.
Each case brought charges against single individuals who are alleged to have played relatively minor roles, however.
Cate previously spent two years as a Sacramento County deputy district attorney after several years in private practice.
The post requires Senate confirmation and pays $123,255.
Cate will report directly to Schwarzenegger as head of an office that investigates misconduct allegations and conducts audits of the youth and adult corrections systems.
Posted on Fri, Feb. 06, 2004
Schwarzenegger reverses position on prisons inspector
By Andrew LaMar
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed direction Friday and recommended fully funding an independent watchdog of the state's prisons, expanding its authority and keeping it separate from the agency it monitors.
In addition, the governor asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate an April 2002 riot at the Folsom State Prison that left 17 inmates and prison guards injured.
The moves come amid mounting criticism of the state's inability to reform its prison system, control the influence of the guards' union and root out corruption. The grave problems within the Department of Corrections have spilled into public view in recent weeks, with legislative hearings producing allegations that prison officials attempted to cover up the riot and a federal court monitor reporting that the state has lost control of its ability to discipline guards.
Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who along with Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, conducted recent hearings into prison problems, hailed the governor's change in heart. Just a week ago, Schwarzenegger defended his plan to cut funding of the Office of the Inspector General and put the office under the authority of his corrections secretary, Roderick Hickman.
At a Jan. 27 luncheon with reporters, Schwarzenegger called the office "a waste." His January budget proposed slashing funding for the agency. Speier, who criticized the plan, said the governor is now on the right track.
"We need to shine a strong light on what goes on inside prisons; the inspector general is the beacon," Speier said.
Schwarzenegger will now recommend a $3.3 million budget for the inspector general, the same amount as the current year, and seek to expand its powers, said Peter Siggins, his legal secretary. The governor wants the inspector general, which has largely audited finances, to have the same tools as other law enforcement agencies, from being able to issue subpoenas to cooperating with grand juries, Siggins said.
The governor reversed his position after seeing what the Senate hearings uncovered, getting advice from Hickman and exploring the state institutions involved, Siggins said.
"The one thing that I think he (Schwarzenegger) is clear about is that he is committed to reform," Siggins said. "He's very concerned about this department, concerned about the way it does its business, serves its mission, and he wants to fix it."
Siggins also said the governor
has instructed the Correctional Youth Authority to quit using small, mesh
cages to place youth inmates in when they misbehave. Critics called the
Muzzling the watchdog
By John Chen -- Special To The Bee - (Published February 1, 2004)
The Office of the Inspector General is the only state entity dedicated to independent oversight of correctional programs and the only agency capable of conducting both audits and criminal and administrative investigations into alleged misconduct by correctional administrators and employees. Yet, the new governor, who came to office on a promise to "clean up" Sacramento and cut waste, proposed eliminating the agency, reducing its staff to six, including two clerical employees, and moving it inside the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency - the very entity it is supposed to oversee.
The reason, the governor asserts, is that the Office of the Inspector General "hasn't done its job" and therefore itself constitutes "waste." On the contrary, the agency has precisely done its job. Its responsibility is to conduct audits and investigations of California's correctional agencies, programs and institutions and to make recommendations to the administration and correctional managers for how to handle problems.
In the three years it has been fully funded, and with a staff at its peak of 97 employees and a budget of $11 million, the Office of the Inspector General has conducted 48 major audits and special reviews; responded to more than 16,000 complaints through its toll-free call center, which acts as an avenue for whistleblowers to report problems; conducted more than 1,400 investigations into alleged misconduct; and performed quality-control reviews of more than 4,000 internal affairs investigations by the Department of Corrections and the California Youth Authority.
Those efforts have resulted in hundreds of specific written recommendations for corrective action and have identified potential savings, operating improvements and litigation cost avoidance amounting to many times the cost of the Office of the Inspector General's budget, and constituting, in my opinion, only the tip of the iceberg.
The agency has no enforcement powers of its own, but rather provides the tools for administrators to bring about change. If reforms have not taken place, the fault rests with officials responsible for administering the state's correctional programs, not with the Office of the Inspector General. Nor is the solution to eliminate or eviscerate the state's only correctional watchdog. The Legislature had it right in 1998 when it put the Office of the Inspector General outside the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency. The notion that the agency should report to the same entity it is supposed to oversee is, to put it mildly, structurally unworkable.
As a recent report by the court-appointed special master for Pelican Bay State Prison points out, efforts to improve California's correctional system have been hampered by the management and culture of the Department of Corrections, which has not only been resistant to change, but has actively sabotaged reform.
The effectiveness of the Office of the Inspector General has also been hindered by a steady erosion in its funding, from $11 million in 2001-02 to $2.7 million in 2003-04, and a consequent 77 percent reduction in its staff to 24 employees. That funding level is utterly inadequate to the task of providing oversight for a correctional system consisting of 50,000 employees, 33 adult prisons, 11 juvenile facilities and responsibility for more than 161,000 adult inmates, 112,000 adult parolees and 5,500 juvenile offenders.
Just as significantly, the Office of the Inspector General has also been encumbered by a requirement in state law that the findings of its audits and investigations be reported only to state officials, with the result that administrators have been shielded from public pressure to effect reform.
California spends $6 billion a year on its correctional system - more than it spends on any other government program except education and Medi-Cal. How much of that spending amounts to waste, or, more to the point, potential savings? Audits conducted by the Office of the Inspector General over the past three years suggest the answer is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Three audits performed in the past 14 months illustrate this reality.
States are constitutionally mandated to provide medical care for prison inmates and face costly lawsuits and court sanctions for failure to do so. In fiscal year 2002-03, medical and dental care for the state's prisoners cost California taxpayers $879 million - an average of $5,500 per inmate annually - and is projected to increase by $95 million (11 percent) to $974 million in 2003-04.
Yet, a January 2003 audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran found inmates waiting months for needed medical services while the institution's seven physicians, who receive annual salaries of between $96,000 and $127,800, worked short hours, came and went as they pleased and saw only a few patients a week.
The audit found that doctors routinely closed clinics around lunchtime and left the institution, turning away inmates waiting for scheduled appointments. The result was delayed diagnosis, worsened medical conditions, more trips to the emergency room and the deaths of three inmates in 2001 and 2002 that appear to have been caused by lapses in medical care.
Auditors repeatedly saw one physician sleeping during work hours, while another physician routinely tracked his investments in his office. When doctors did see patients, they referred all but the most routine medical procedures to outside specialists, contributing to an 81 percent cost overrun at the institution for contracted medical services of more than $5 million.
Claiming they feared malpractice suits, the institution's seven doctors together performed only 149 mostly minor medical procedures in fiscal year 2001-02, for an average of 22 medical procedures per doctor, or about 2.01 per doctor per month, including treatment for 19 ingrown toenails, 88 sutured lacerations and 26 lanced abscesses or removed cysts. For everything else, including minor skin problems, arthritic conditions, broken bones and minor surgeries that the institution's treatment center is equipped to handle, they referred inmates to outside specialists.
Meanwhile, inmates were waiting months to receive specialized care. At the time of the audit in April 2002, surgeries were backlogged to November 2001 with more than 100 referrals, orthopedic treatment was backlogged to July 2001, and orthotics was backlogged to October 2001. Orders for X-rays were also backlogged to October 2001, and the radiology department had 60 unfilled orders for MRIs dating back to November 2001.
The problems were mirrored in the institution's dental care, with dentists likewise working short hours, and at least one dentist maintaining a full-time private dental practice on the side while drawing a full-time salary at the prison.
The prison's pharmaceutical operations were equally appalling. In fiscal year 2001-02, the institution spent $5.3 million for drugs and pharmaceutical supplies against a budget of $1.7 million - a 211 percent overrun of more than $3.6 million. The audit revealed some of the reasons: The pharmacy was relying on an antiquated manual system that continued to automatically refill prescriptions for as long as eight months after an inmate had been paroled. Likewise, the pharmacy had no means of determining when an inmate had been transferred from one housing unit to another and therefore continued to send medication to the old housing unit. As a result, auditors saw prison staff routinely discarding 30-gallon bags of unclaimed medications.
The institution also had no system to account for narcotic drugs, no way to determine whether filled prescriptions had been properly authorized by a doctor, no way of knowing whether inmates were receiving medications prescribed for them and no way of preventing narcotics or other drugs from being stolen. During the audit, in fact, a pharmacist, three medical technical assistants and a nurse were all walked off the prison grounds for suspected drug theft.
Responsibility for medical care at the institutions resides in Department of Corrections headquarters, and as a result of the audit by the Office of the Inspector General, the department replaced its on-site health care manager and promised action to rectify the problems at the prison.
But the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility represents only one of 33 adult prisons run by the state, housing more than 160,000 inmates, and indications are that the situation may be no different at the other institutions. After reading the inspector general's report on the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility audit, a recently retired warden confessed that the problems were even worse at the prison he had overseen - a view that was confirmed in January 2004 by a management assessment conducted by the Department of Corrections of that institution.
An audit conducted by the Office of the Inspector General in November 2002 likewise found widespread waste and abuse in an audit of the Jobs Plus Program, which was supposed to help parolees find jobs. The program, which had been operating since 1987, and which was funded in fiscal year 2000-01 for $2.7 million, was administered by the Department of Corrections through a contract with the California State University, Sacramento Foundation, which in turn contracted with five community-based organizations to provide job placement services. Under the arrangement, subcontractors were paid an average of $500 for every successful parolee job placement.
But the audit found that in fully 90 percent of the cases, subcontractors were paid for job placements even though there was no evidence that they helped the parolees obtain jobs or that they provided the services for which they were paid. Worse, the audit revealed that the Department of Corrections had known about the abuses since 1998, yet had failed to take action. After the Office of the Inspector General released its report, the Jobs Plus Program was terminated.
In still another audit, the agency examined state spending for inmate academic and vocational education. The Department of Corrections budgets $48.4 million to provide academic and vocational education programs to inmates at 11 so-called Level IV prisons - those that house the most serious and violent offenders. Yet, in its November 2002 audit, the Office of the Inspector General found that education classes at those institutions operate an average of only 30 percent of the time because of prison lockdowns and other disruptions.
And even though classes are closed for months on end, teachers continue to be paid and inmates continued to receive day-for-day sentence reduction credit for attending class just as though classes were being held and teachers were providing instruction.
Meanwhile, the prisons have no procedures for tracking teachers' activities or for temporarily assigning them to other duties. As a result of the audit, the agency recommended that the Department of Corrections re-evaluate classroom education programs at Level IV institutions to determine whether they warrant continued operation and investigate other methods of delivering academic and vocational instruction to inmates, such as distance learning.
The audits described here represent just three examples among dozens of rampant waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement and rule violations in the state's correctional programs and point up the need for continued aggressive oversight of correctional agencies.
Rather than further undermining reform efforts, I suggest the following changes:
First, make the position of inspector general a tenured appointment subject to removal only for good cause. That change would be consistent with the tenured appointments of the state auditor and members of the State Personnel Board. Second, bring the findings and recommendations of the Office of the Inspector General into the open by removing the agency's statutory confidentiality restrictions. And third, index the agency's budget to that of the entity it oversees, the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency. Lastly, within one year of issuing its reports, the Office of the Inspector General should be required to conduct follow-up reviews to assess the departments' progress to correct the deficiencies found in audits and investigations and regularly report the results to the governor and the Legislature.
A constellation of recent events has provided the new governor with the first real opportunity in decades to bring about genuine reform in California's massive and costly correctional system and to save the taxpayers some of the millions promised during the recall campaign. This is the time to act on that opportunity.
About the Writer
Until he was fired by Governor Schwarzenegger on Jan. 16, John Chen was in charge of the independent agency – the Office of the Inspector General – that acts as the watchdog over state prisons.
October 2, 2002
Re: Retribution Against Inmates
Dear Mr. White:
I am a member of the public, in that I do not have family in the prison system. I have been writing and helping prisoners with their problems where ever I can be of help. This letter is about the severe retribution prisoners receive when they dare to stand up for their Constitutional Rights, and file a Federal Writ, Appeal or Complaint. Below I will list several stories that I know about personally, that will demonstrate that there is a serious problem of retribution in the state prisons and county jails against inmates.
1. The first case which got me started helping prisoners was of Jerry Wayne Morgan. Under the authority of Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969), the Third Appellate granted permission that a Supplemental Brief could be prepared for Mr. Morgan. This was done after a lot of Obstruction of Justice by High Desert to prevent this from happening, but just in time the Brief was filed. The Third Appellate overturned the sentence of Mr. Morgan, who is now back in Shasta County Jail for his trial on October 16, 2002. I do not know the date, but at some point Mr. Morgan was set up in the yard at High Desert, and was knifed and missed being murdered by an inch, as he showed me the scar on his left jaw. In the Shasta County Jail where he was put in the "hole" over minor incidents, Morgan was severely beaten. [I later learned they were trying to double-cell him with a homosexual.] The so-called investigation was just a cover-up, and the officers lied to Captain VanBuskirk and Sheriff Pope. Nothing has been done about this that I know about. You can find more to this story on this Website:
2. The second story is of Joel Brown, D-35361 of Calipatria State Prison, who is a former cellmate of a cellmate of Morgan at High Desert. He was interested in legal issues, and asked permission to write to me. I have been writing to him and encouraging him in his writing, and lately he mailed me a huge envelope of his Federal Writ of Habeas Corpus. I have been pulling out issues from these papers and typing them up and putting on my Website for his insights from the inside. Mr. Brown wrote that, "a fellow convict knew I was getting ready to fight the system and gave me the truth of the matter, he said point blank "they will kill you!" To which my immediate reply was something to the effect of, "then they kill me!" He has suffered much retribution because of his filing lawsuits, and many 602's and only a couple minor items have been granted. He thanks the Lord that he is still alive, but tells me not to worry as he is willing to die to stand up for his Constitutional Rights.
3. This next story is of Scott Larson, T-56086 who did something stupid like shooting off a gun in the house, and the DA got the girlfriend to testify that he tried to kill her (no hard evidence as no gun powder on her face], and with two enhancements of 10 and 20 years, was given 33.8 years. They were both on drugs, and I assume that they gave her a deal to testify against Scott, as this is so often the case. So with no injured party, and no dead body, he is sent to High Desert to Level IV, put in with all the murderers when he never murdered anyone. For the last two years during all the trials, Scott has been reading legal cases and has become very educated in legal matters. There was an incident recently at High Desert with a guard calling him a "teller" or in common language a "snitch" in front of 30 prisoners. This puts Scott in great danger from other prisoners who have their own method of justice, and he tried to file several 602's and was not successful to get matter resolved. So he filed a Complaint with the Federal Court - Eastern District. I took very seriously the danger that Scott is in right now from both prisoners and guards, that I wrote a letter to the Eastern District that they take the matter seriously. Copy of letter attached. This is urgent that this matter be investigated by your office, and Scott be placed in another prison where his safety can be provided.
4. This prisoner Tom Watson is now in Shasta County Jail as a Civil Commitment. He finally told me part of his story, in that he had consentual sex with two underage [females], and has been labeled as a sexual predator and has been in prison I think about 14+ years. Tom is an outstanding writer, and has been gathering up stories of other prisoners and writing them, and they were so good that I have been typing them and placing on the Tom Watson Index, and I would recommend that you go there and read these stories from the prisoners side of the story. Tom wrote recently, and I'll quote: "I spent 14 years in the system; wrote hundreds of CDC-602, Inmate Appeals, for both myself and others; was involved in taking them to court over prisoner's rights twice, once for the Hobby Program, once for an adequate amount of time to eat meals, both of which we won; wrote numerous habeas corpus petitions involving other inmate's convictions or sentencing. For my efforts I was threatened numerous times, had the hell beat out of me complete with knocked out teeth and broken bones. And I would do it all again without hesitation. Civil rights must be won, and then you must fight to keep them. I have been both afraid and beat down, but I won't quit, for then they win. Choose your priority: either let them treat you like sheep, or fight for human dignity. One only preserves or gains his own civil rights by ensuring those same rights for others."
So this is a small example of what prisoners must suffer in order to have even the rights of prisoners that are guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions. Our current prisons and jails are hell holes, the cruelty and torture is pure evil, and it is being allowed and tolerated by the Officials and Judicial Officers. This mess needs to be cleaned up, and the guards that beat, torture or set up the "killing fields" should be removed. One of the prisoners is already suffering from "PTSD" or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the torture, beatings and attempted murder on his person. You are in a position to do something about this evil, and the time to start is today.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.
cc: Thom McConnell, Executive Director, Board of Corrections
Scott Larson Index
Retribution - Index
Three Strikes Legal - Index