Inspector General Finds a Wide Range of Prison Employee Misbehavior

Thursday, April 04, 2013
(photo: Garth Copley, Press Association)

A semi-annual report by the California prison system’s inspector general found that sex was a prominent feature in disciplinary cases involving corrections employees, but it was by no means the only way they misbehaved.

More than 30 of the 278 cases monitored by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the last six months of 2012 involved some form of sexual involvement, mostly between employees and inmates. The OIG monitors and assesses internal investigations of alleged misconduct by Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees but reported only those cases (out of 1,036) that it considered significant, and were closed, during the last six months of the year.

The OIG monitored both the investigative and disciplinary phases of department inquiries and rated them by how “sufficient” they were. It found that 70% of the investigations met its standard of acceptability and 75% of the disciplinary actions measured up.

Although “sexual misconduct” is just one of 10 general categories the OIG uses to define cases, it was only listed as an official allegation in 2%. The report also considered neglect of duty (24%), dishonesty (23%), discourteous treatment (11%), over-familiarity (9%), failure to report, (9%), unreasonable use of force (8%), failure of good behavior (8%), contraband (5%) and code of silence (1%).

The 10 sexual misconduct cases involved violations of Penal Code 289.6, which forbids actual sexual relations between an employee and a prisoner. That doesn’t cover the supervising cook who “allegedly allowed inmates to tickle and fondle him, and allegedly called one inmate ‘cutie’ and followed him into the bathroom area.”

Thirteen of the 278 incidents involved a cook, and while many of them involved sex or “overly familiar relationships,” sometimes they just involved trafficking in drugs or other banned items. In one instance, a supervising cook was accused of neglect of duty for allowing an inmate to enter the bread room unauthorized, where he then hung himself.

In another incident, the chief of security at a juvenile facility had “overly familiar sexual relationships with wards.” When he wasn’t allegedly grabbing their genitals, he was allegedly providing money and drugs to gang-affiliated inmates. OIG also documented a parole officer’s alleged sexual relationship with a parolee and a female psychiatric technician’s “overly familiar relationships with five different inmates, including sexual relations with two of the five inmates.” She also was accused of bringing marijuana and cellphones into the institution.

Like many of the cases documented by OIG, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges against the psychiatric technician, even though her incriminating conversation with one of the inmates was recorded by the Office of Internal Affairs. In a critique repeated throughout the report, the OIG wrote, “The department attorney failed to timely and appropriately determine the deadline to take appropriate action, failed to consult with the OIG and the special agent regarding the investigation, and failed to review the investigative report and provide feedback to the special agent.” 

For the most part, the OIG monitored the behavior of department inspectors and simply reported their findings. But sometimes they got involved in the cases. One officer allegedly harassed his ex-girlfriend over a period of time, including violation of a restraining order, stealing her mobile phone and sending explicit photos of her to her minor son. The OIG wanted the department to refer the case to the district attorney, but it delayed for four months, failed to conduct interviews and generally screwed around until the DA decided it was too late to prosecute.

Although the report is filled with serious examples of bad behavior, indicating systemic problems in the penal system, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation seemed relieved that at least there were no tales of officer-supervised “gladiator fights” between inmates, as in past years.

Acting Undersecretary for Operation Martin Hoshino told the Associated Press, “We're pretty comfortable or satisfied with the level of screening or prevention that we do already in the department. We have a pretty high bar as it is.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Prison Abuse Detailed In New Report (by Dan Thompson, Associated Press)

Semi-Annual Report, July-December 2012 (Office of the Inspector General) (pdf)

Leave a comment