Report: Calif. CO let 30 inmates throw a party to mourn gang member

The Inspector General also found the CO delivered a package from one inmate to another in administrative segregation

Wes Venteicher
Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California correctional officer let about 30 inmates hold a party following the death of a gang member, according to a watchdog agency report published Monday.

The officer, who isn’t named in the Office of the Inspector General report, allegedly released the inmates into a housing yard for the party without searching them and then didn’t report them for drinking alcohol they had made, the report says.

The officer also delivered a package prepared by inmates to another inmate who was being held in administrative segregation as a reward for the inmate’s involvement in a homicide, the report states.

The report doesn’t say at which of California’s 35 prisons the party took place.

The Office of the Inspector General reviews employee discipline at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation every six months as mandated in the state’s penal code.

Overall, the corrections department did a satisfactory job referring disciplinary matters for investigation, and it generally took appropriate steps to discipline employees. However, costly delays remain in the system, the watchdog found, including in the case of the correctional officer’s role in the party.

The watchdog’s report says the officer’s boss didn’t refer the matter to the department’s Office of Internal Affairs for 47 days.

Similar delays occurred in 33 percent of the referrals to investigators from prison officials, such as wardens, according to the report. The report covered 170 cases the watchdog monitored and closed from January through June involving allegations of serious misconduct.

Delays on both ends of the process — referring cases for investigation and then administering discipline — drive up taxpayer costs and increase the potential for misconduct to go unaddressed, according to the report.

In total, delays in the disciplinary process cost taxpayers an extra $314,000 over the six-month period, according to the report.

Corrections department spokeswoman Dana Simas said the department has upgraded its case management system over the last year to increase efficiency processing disciplinary cases and will review the report and “continue to ensure investigations are consistent, thorough, fair, and transparent.”

“The department has zero tolerance for employee misconduct and we take every allegation very seriously,” she said in an emailed statement.

In the case of the inmate party, the officer’s boss decided to dismiss him after an internal affairs investigation. The officer eventually agreed to resign as part of a settlement, according to the report.

The officer told interviewers he didn’t know whether he had violated rules. When asked about the allegation he had jeopardized safety and security at the institution, he replied, “I didn’t put staff in jeopardy, and I don’t give a s*** about inmates,” according to the report.

Corrections department policy gives prison authorities 30 days to refer disciplinary cases to the Internal Affairs Office. The report details cases in which authorities didn’t refer cases to investigators for more than two months.

The delayed cases included instances of officers punching inmates, slamming their heads against walls, using batons unnecessarily, threatening sexual assault and engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct.

In the six-month period the Inspector General’s Office reviewed, the Office of Internal Affairs accepted 1,070 referrals for investigation. The inspector general only reviews the most serious cases.

The referrals represent a small percentage of the corrections department’s 57,700 employees.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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