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Head of Youth Prison Will Be Removed

Probe concludes that Steve Kruse used unreasonable force against a ward at the Stockton facility, and then failed to report it.

August 05, 2005|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — The superintendent of the state's most notorious youth prison will be removed for using unreasonable force against a ward and failing to report the incident, corrections officials said Thursday.

Steve Kruse, superintendent at Stockton's N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, has been on administrative leave since shortly after the May 27 incident. His appointment will be terminated Wednesday.

His removal adds to the turmoil at the prison, which remains under federal investigation. Eric Holland, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said Thursday that an investigation was continuing into whether the civil rights of wards at the facility were being violated.

"This place is just in complete upheaval, and it has been for a long time," said Belinda Griswold of the reform group Books Not Bars.

Bernard Warner, who took over Monday as the state's juvenile justice director, toured the prison Thursday as he determines whether to close it as critics recommend, a spokesman said.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was to submit its response today to a scathing report this spring by the prison system's independent inspector general. Further reports are due this fall to a federal judge after national experts found deplorable conditions throughout the system.

In the quarterly investigative report released Thursday, Inspector General Matthew Cate found that Kruse had grabbed a handcuffed ward's hair and jaw as he was being escorted to another unit after a fight involving 44 youths. Though the 19-year-old ward was struggling with his escorts, and Kruse said he believed he was using reasonable force in line with department policy, investigators concluded that the ward was already safely under others' control.

Neither Kruse nor any of the employees who were present reported the incident, which Cate said violated department use-of-force policy and a new policy intended to break an informal "code of silence" covering up wrongdoing. Employees who failed to report the incident should be disciplined as well, Cate said.

Investigators dismissed the ward's complaint that Kruse had slammed his head into a wall, saying there were no witnesses and that the ward did not suffer any bruises or scrapes.

Although he is no longer superintendent, Kruse can remain with the department.

The same report also detailed an incident that led to last month's removal of San Quentin Warden Jill Brown.

Cate found that Brown had fostered a "code of silence" by accusing a healthcare manager of lying and suggesting he should be disciplined for speaking privately to a court-appointed monitor about conditions at the prison. Cate also determined that Brown's lack of cooperation with the manager temporarily harmed healthcare services at the prison.

Both Kruse and Brown were removed in anticipation of Cate's findings, which were relayed to the corrections department before being made public.

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