The Wilson administration and the state Department of Justice under Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren insist there was no effort to limit investigations into shootings and abuse of inmates at Corcoran State Prison over a six-year period. But consider the facts unearthed in an exhaustive Times investigation: Seven inmates were shot dead and 43 seriously wounded by guards at the San Joaquin Valley facility, often during fights between rival gangs staged by prison guards. In more than 2,000 shooting incidents involving bullets or wood projectiles, only one corrections officer was investigated by a state team and disciplined--and that was a whistle-blower who had gone to the FBI.
The Times reports prompted a series of hearings in the Legislature that will continue Monday. One focal point of Thursday's session was whether there was any cover-up or "whitewash" of the events by high-ranking state officials--something that the offices of Lungren and Gov. Pete Wilson steadfastly deny.
But testimony by prison officials on Thursday certainly supports the conclusion that the state investigations were anything but vigorous and thorough. A ranking Corrections Department official conceded that the most serious allegations were ignored by higher-ups.
Officials also acknowledged that key paragraphs in a draft report describing cover-ups of brutality at Corcoran by corrections officers were deleted from the final report. The best reason one official could give for the change was that "it was editing by committee."