Report IDs Range Of Abuses By Calif. Prison Staff
SACRAMENTO (AP) — One prison employee was accused of bearing an inmate’s child. Another was alleged to have sent nude photos of herself to an inmate’s contraband cellphone.
And a prison guard sent love letters to an inmate.
The examples of inappropriate relationships forged behind prison walls also illustrate one of the conduits inmates use to have cellphones smuggled to them.
The cases are among dozens of disciplinary examples contained in a report this month from the prison system’s inspector general. It found that cellphone smuggling and illicit relationships are ongoing problems for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Officials said Monday that problems exist, even though the department acts quickly to dismiss employees or file criminal charges when it can.
However, the inspector general’s office, in its 272-page report, also criticized department lawyers and other investigators for often failing to properly and quickly conduct investigations.
Charges were filed against the female correctional officers accused of sending nude images and love letters to inmates, and against a licensed vocational nurse who allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with one inmate while supplying others with drugs and mobile phones.
The outcomes of the prosecutions were not included in the report, which details 419 disciplinary investigations that the inspector general monitored in the first six months of this year.
The cases include excessive use of force against inmates and incidents that happened outside prisons, as well as allegations of smuggling and improper relations with inmates.
Some of the cases date back years, including that of an office technician who allegedly had an inmate’s child.
Prosecutors did not charge the employee because they could not obtain DNA from the woman or infant to prove that the inmate was the father. She resigned and could not be located after the special agent who investigated the case waited 15 months to submit his report to the district attorney’s office, according to the report.
“We take it very seriously, but unfortunately those things do happen,” department spokeswoman Dana Simas said of the improper relationships.
The department has nearly 50,000 employees, she said, “so the probability that we’re going to have some bad apples is large.”
The department tries to keep employees from becoming too familiar by rotating shifts and job assignments so they aren’t dealing with the same inmates all the time, said Ryan Sherman, a spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents most prison guards.
A year ago, the state enacted a law making it illegal to smuggle a cellphone to an inmate. It applies to prison employees and nonemployees, making the crime a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for each device. Inmates found with phones can serve more time behind bars.
Simas credited the law with helping deter smuggling by employees and visitors. Last year, the department confiscated more than 15,000 phones, and this year it’s on a pace to uncover about 12,000 devices.
Sherman said employees are responsible for a minuscule proportion of the smuggled phones, based on the number recovered from prison staff.
It is common for inmates’ associates to throw bags of cellphones over prisons’ perimeter fences, where they can be recovered by inmate groundskeepers, Simas said.
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