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COLUMN ONE : A System Strains at Its Bars : The state prison population is exploding. Taxing the facilities are violence, labor disputes and a rising number of ill and infirm inmates.

The Price of Punishment. The Booming Business of Running California's Prisons. One in a series. About This Series: Prisons building already has become a multibillion-dollar industry in California, and with the "three strikes" law, an even bigger boom is forecast for the coming decades. The Times visited prisons, from the Imperial Valley to the North Coast, and reviewed thousands of pages of public records to examine the state's prison construction program, life inside the penitentiaries and issues that already are severely straining the penal system. * Sunday: How tough-on-crime legislation has created a Pentagon-like bureaucracy and generated unprecedented prison construction that has touched all corners of the state.* Today: A journey through the California prison system, where the flow of inmates has far outstripped construction of 16 new facilities since 1984.* Tuesday: With the state planning up to 25 more prisons by the turn of the century, many communities weigh the potential impact on jobs, housing, public services and property values.* Wednesday: The cost of keeping the ever-expanding prisons system running is being driven ever higher by the influx of inmates, inflated salaries and health care costs.

October 17, 1994|JOHN HURST and DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Dortch sued and won a settlement of $972,000 last year. McMillan was fired, but is suing to reclaim his job, and the guards union is supporting the action. McMillan is convinced the temperature of the bath water had nothing to do with Dortch's injuries. He said he believes the inmate's skin came off because he had a rash from lying in his wastes or from disinfectant used to clean his cell.

Warden Charles Marshall blames such problems on inexperienced staff and the difficulties of opening a new prison.

He has tried to tighten procedures. But as more prisons open, he predicts, wardens will face similar problems: "As long as (inmates) keep coming, and they're coming at a rate faster than we can build, we're going to be in that situation, and probably we'll be looked at critically by the courts."

A Day In the Life

Here is a typical daily schedule for prisoners:

5:00 a.m.: Inmates counted 6:00: General population wakes up. Inmates with jobs in the kitchen have been up since 4 a.m. 6:15--Breakfast 6:45--Prisoners on medication line up for pills 7-7:30--Inmate maintenance workers, students report to work or classes. 8:00--Medical call 9:15--Cells unlocked, prisoners with no program go to exercise yard, day rooms or counseling. 11:00--Yard ends. Inmates return to cells. 11:30--Lunch (sack lunch) Noon--High security inmates counted 2:00--Work day ends for inmates with jobs in Prison Industry Authority 2:30--Cells unlocked, prisoners return to the yard, day rooms. 3:30--Classes ends for inmates in education or job training 3:45--Inmates return from yard, cells locked 4:30--Mail is distributed, inmates counted 5:00--Dinner 6:30--Cells unlocked, inmates return to yard or day rooms 9:30--Inmates return to cells Midnight--Inmates counted

PERSONAL BELONGINGS

Here are some of the items prisoners are allowed to have or use:

CLOTHING: Denim jeans, blue work shirts, leather work shoes. Authorities are considering switching to soft shoes.

CANTEENS ITEMS: Cigarettes, soda, vitamins, candy, ice cream, canned food, personal care products, stationary, pens.

CATALOGUE ITEMS: Two mail-order firms specialize in sales to inmates of Corrections-approved clocks, small televisions, radios, tape players, earphones, approved clothing, and personal care items.

EQUIPMENT: Guitar, typewriter, no more than two plug-in appliances, including television, radio, electric shaver, fan, a heating element for warming food or drink.

READING MATERIAL: Law books, most general interest books, magazines. Authorities are considering limiting material deemed pornographic or racist.

CABLE TELEVISION: Reception is poor in most prisons, so the state provides cable. Prisons rent and broadcast movies via cable to inmates' sets.

EXERCISE YARDS: Weight piles, softball or soccer fields, handball and basketball courts, a running track, body bags.

Source: Lancaster prison spokesman Kenn Hicks

Feeding the Inmates

Each California inmate's daily diet calls for 3.700 calories: 15% protein, 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat. Here is how much food each inmate is provided annually:

Food Annual pounds Fruits, vegetables 800 Milk 445 Meat, poultry 252 Cereal 200 Fats, oils, sugar 125 Beverages 25

Here is a typical menu for California prisoners, from California State Prison in Lancaster. * Breakfast: Stewed fruit, hot cereal, scrambled eggs, turkey-ham, muffin with butter, milk, coffee. * Lunch: Turkey baloney and cheese sandwich, apple, chips, cookies, beverage pack (which when mixed with water makes punch). * Dinner: Salad, beef stew with noodles, canned peas, roll, butter, cake, beverage pack.

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