Calif. prisons secretary under fire for underused misconduct investigations

A report that found wardens referred just 541 complaints out of more than 50,000 to the new internal affairs unit during a five month period

By Andrew Sheeler
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Corrections Secretary Kathleen Allison faced tough questions from a group of a Democratic lawmakers over a report charging that state prison wardens neglected to use a new system created to handle inmate complaints against guards.

The hearing centered on a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General, which found wardens referred just 541 complaints out of more than 50,000 to the new internal affairs unit during a five month period last year.

The program, known by the acronym AIMS, is designed to standardize disciplinary decisions across a corrections system that employs more than 55,000 people.

Allison opened her remarks by saying that her department "takes every allegation of staff misconduct very seriously" and that she intended to correct the shortcomings flagged in the report.

Democratic lawmakers at times cut her short, saying they wanted more from a system the state spent $10 million to launch in 2019.

"You have absolutely no credibility right now," said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D- San Francisco.

Several Assembly members echoed his skepticism.

"Really, it seems like the system was set up with too many gates to ensure that complaints never got to the unit," said Assemblyman Mark Stone, D- Monterey Bay.

The most aggressive questioning of Allison came from Ting, who at times interrupted Allison when she tried to respond.

He pressed her on whether prison executives prior to Allison's appointment in August as secretary were responsible for undermining the new system.

"How can you fix the problem if you don't even know who made the decision?" Ting said.

The secretary pledged to work to fix the system's shortcomings, and said the the new process confused wardens.

"The bottom line is, we made it too complex," Allison said.

Allison repeated that is hiring staff and getting them trained, something that could take 30 to 60 days, she said.

The secretary also suggested setting up regular meetings with lawmakers to keep them updated on the department's progress in rectifying the issue.


(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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