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Prison misconduct cases are detailed by state inspector general

April 04, 2013|By Paige St. John

A catalog of recent misconduct cases in California's corrections system includes allegations that prison guards groped and grappled with inmates, brought them drugs, shared their booze and solicited them for sex.

The two-volume report, created by the independent Office of Inspector General, chronicles 117 incidents within state prisons and 93 investigations from July to December 2012. It starts with a cook at a central California prison accused of asking inmates to sit on his lap, "tickle and fondle him." It ends with the tale of a parole agent who shot the charging dog of his parolee. (The pit bull survived and the officer was exonerated.)

In between are numerous allegations of prison workers delivering drugs and mobile phones to inmates, engaging in sex with them, and turning a blind eye to or even arranging inmate assaults. While some cases were dismissed, or handled only administratively, others were turned over to county prosecutors.

In one alleged coverup involving seven prison officials, a guard accepted an inmate's challenge to a fist fight, stripped off his prison gear, and began a fight ultimately broken up by another guard's baton, the report says. Afterward, the guard allegedly staged an assault by the inmate to "fabricate a legitimate reason for the injuries he suffered earlier." The guard was charged with six felony counts; he pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor charges.

[Updated at 3 p.m.: Corrections officials said the incident took place at a prison in Kern County, and that three of the correctional officers and a sergeant involved in the coverup lost their state jobs, while another officer and a lieutenant received pay cuts. Allegations against a fifth officer were not sustained.]

The inspector general's report includes four alleged cases of corrections officers ordering assaults on inmates, including a parole agent accused of soliciting a parolee to murder another parolee. That April 2012 incident remains under investigation.

In other cases, the independent reviewers criticize the corrections department for long delays in investigating alleged misconduct. For instance, investigators took nearly a year to file a report on a security chief accused of sexual relations with inmates in a juvenile facility while allowing him to remain on paid leave.

The Office of Inspector General, however, gave the corrections department praise for improving its reporting of discipline cases, though said gains still need to be made in the southern third of the state, where the handling of nearly a third of disciplinary reports was deemed "insufficient."

The twice-a-year reports by the Office of Inspector General are the offshoot of court cases against the corrections department over the use of force and care of inmates. "The overwhelming majority of CDCR’s more than 46,000 employees are hard-working and professional," said department spokeswoman Terry Thornton.

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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