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Monday, September 29, 2014

Long-time prison officers’ union president to retire

SacbeeMike Jimenez, the mercurial leader of the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, is retiring at the end of this year and members have elected the union’s executive vice president, Chuck Alexander, to head the organization starting Jan. 1.

The leadership change, announced Thursday after a vote at the union’s annual convention, will mark just the second time CCPOA has turned over administrations since organizing more than 30 years ago.

Jimenez, 52, assumed the union presidency when Don Novey retired in 2002. The dozen years that followed were some of the most turbulent in the union’s history: Contract battles with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, furloughs, Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison system downsizing program and a defamation lawsuit that cost CCPOA millions of dollars all created unrest among the union’s 30,000 members.

Jimenez was known for bizarre and provocative antics, such as refusing to cut his hair and beard during a bargaining impasse with Schwarzenegger. At one point during contentious labor talks the union ordered up a large unflattering picture of the movie star-governor in a Speedo and had it driven around the Capitol. continue reading...

Salinas Valley State Prison corrections officers charged in fatal bar brawl

KIONTwo Salinas Valley State Prison corrections officers are charged with manslaughter in connection with a fatal bar brawl earlier this month.

According to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office, Sergio Aranda and Travis Woolf were arrested Thursday on charges of voluntary manslaughter.

Deputies say the two got into a fight with 54-year-old Alvarao Jaramillo Medrano outside a San Miguel bar on Sept. 7. Medrano died from his injuries.

"A cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy was performed, but we are awaiting the results of toxicology tests," said Tony Cipolla, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office. "At that point the coroner will make a determination of cause and manner of death."

Officials at the Salinas Valley State Prison said they would not comment on the case, but both men have been placed on paid leave pending investigation. Prison officials say they didn't know the two were suspects in this case until they were arrested Thursday.

Woolf, 36, of San Miguel has worked at the prison since 2001.

Aranda, 35, of Salinas has worked at the prison since 2006.

Governor Jerry Brown signs Prison Anti-sterilization Bill, or SB 1135

KERO 23Governor Jerry Brown signed into law State Senate Bill 1135, the Prison Anti-sterilization bill authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, which was also sponsored by legal and human rights organization Justice Now, and which also included bi-partisan support.

Supporters of the bill along with those directly impacted by these sterilizations say not only is it long overdue, but makes sense after so much evidence was presented outlining abuses.

"This bill not only affects those still inside prisons and the thousands of women who will go through prisons and jails in the near future; but most importantly, it protects generations of children to come who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to exist," said Kelli Dillon who was sterilized in her early 20's while incarcerate at Central California Women's facility in Chowchilla.

The discover that upwards of 100 illegal sterilizations of pregnant people imprisoned at Valley State Prison for Women and California Institution for Women between 2006 and 2010 spurred state lawmakers into action.

California's past includes performing an estimated third of sterilizations nationwide during the American Eugenics Movement and advising Nazi eugenic programs. In 2003, former state governor Grey Davis issued a formal apology for California's part in sterilizing approximately 20,000 mentally disabled people and other vulnerable populations from 1909 through the 1960s.

Friday, September 19, 2014

California Corrections Officers Honored For Overcoming Odds, Saving Others

CBS 13 State correctional officers were honored for their work in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Many of the recipients are considered heroes for not only overcoming incredible odds, but also saving others.

Working as a correctional officer or supporting staff in the California state prison system is like sitting on a powder keg. They supervise an unpredictable population, some with strong ties to street gangs.

Men and women like Ney Vencer were recognized by state officials for their bravery and close calls with death.

“Things can happen at anytime and that’s what we do,” Vencer said.

Last year, locked behind the barbed-wire covered walls at California state prison in Sacramento, Vencer says he was suddenly attacked by an inmate armed with a shiv.

“A daily routine that you use everyday and you can’t control that when things happen,” he said.

As he fought the inmate, he sustained life threatening injuries to his throat, and several officers came to his rescue.

These officers, turned battle buddies were able to get the inmate off of Vencer, saving his life. They received the gold star for bravery, while Vencer earned the medal of valor for fighting back and never giving up. continue reading...

How Gangs Took Over Prisons

The AtlanticOn a clear morning this past February, the inmates in the B Yard of Pelican Bay State Prison filed out of their cellblock a few at a time and let a cool, salty breeze blow across their bodies. Their home, the California prison system’s permanent address for its most hardened gangsters, is in Crescent City, on the edge of a redwood forest—about four miles from the Pacific Ocean in one direction and 20 miles from the Oregon border in the other. This is their yard time.

Most of the inmates belong to one of California’s six main prison gangs: Nuestra Familia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Northern Structure, or the Nazi Lowriders (the last two are offshoots of Nuestra Familia and the Aryan Brotherhood, respectively). The inmates interact like volatile chemicals: if you open their cells in such a way as to put, say, a lone member of Nuestra Familia in a crowd of Mexican Mafia, the mix can explode violently. So the guards release them in a careful order.

“Now watch what they do,” says Christopher Acosta, a corrections officer with a shaved head who worked for 15 years as a front-line prison guard and now runs public relations for Pelican Bay. We are standing with our backs to a fence and can see everything.

At first, we seem to be watching a sullen but semi-random parade of terrifying men—heavily tattooed murderers, thieves, and drug dealers walking past one of five casual but alert guards. Some inmates, chosen for a strip search, drop their prison blues into little piles and then spin around, bare-assed, to be scrutinized. Once inspected, they dress and walk out into the yard to fill their lungs with oxygen after a long night in the stagnant air of the cellblock. The first Hispanic inmate to put his clothes on walks about 50 yards to a concrete picnic table, sits down, and waits. The first black inmate goes to a small workout area and stares out at the yard intently. A white guy walks directly to a third spot, closer to the basketball court. Another Hispanic claims another picnic table. Slowly it becomes obvious that they have been moving tactically: each has staked out a rallying point for his group and its affiliates. continue reading...

Missouri prison supervisor admits trying to cover up guard attack on inmate

APA lieutenant at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield is facing up to three years in prison after admitting that he persuaded an inmate not to report being assaulted by a prison guard.

Federal prosecutors say 42-year-old James Myrick, of Nixa, pleaded guilty Wednesday. He admitted that he was present when a guard hit inmate Shawn Springer, who had been in a dispute with the guard's wife.

Myrick said he offered Springer a better cell if he didn't tell anyone about the assault. Springer then told a nurse he hit his head while cleaning his bunk.

After Springer discussed the injury with a psychologist, Myrick wrote a memo that claimed Springer's head injury was pre-existing, which was later contradicted by staff members.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stockton warden reassigned to Folsom Prison - News - recordnet.com - Stockton, CA

The acting warden of the nation’s largest prison health care facility on the outskirts of Stockton has been reassigned to Folsom State Prison, a switch that comes amid ongoing criticism of conditions at the state institution from a prisoner advocacy group.
But Acting Warden Ron Rackley, 48, said those issues have nothing to do with his decision to accept another post.
Rackley leaves California Health Care Facility after seeing it through construction and an activation process that began in 2013 and spawned reports of inadequate medical care and sanitation problems.
More recently, the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office has questioned three inmate deaths that appear to have been preventable.
There certainly have been challenges in establishing operations at the facility, Rackley said, but his transfer is based on his own desire to work closer to home.
Rackley, an Elk Grove resident, said he’s been interested in Folsom for years, and when the opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago he accepted.
Rackley had been named acting warden of the health care facility after spending more than 25 years at Deuel Vocational Institution, where he had moved up through the ranks to become warden of the Tracy prison.
The Stockton assignment, Rackley said, was not intended as a long-term job.
The $839 million facility had been open for about six months when a court-appointed receiver, charged with taking over responsibility for state prison health care, halted medical and mental health admissions to the facility in January.

Stockton warden reassigned to Folsom Prison - News - recordnet.com - Stockton, CA

State audits find prison, hospital payroll abuses - LA Times

Audits of a state prison and psychiatric hospital detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper payments and financial problems, including outright payroll fraud, and medical staff and guards receiving questionable bonuses and holiday pay, according to reports released Wednesday.

The financial reviews at California's Sacramento prison near Folsom and the Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino are among 14 state agency audits required this year in the wake of payroll abuses uncovered two years ago at California's parks department.

The reviews, conducted by the state Controller, found rates of unauthorized or improper pay in as many as 88% of the relatively small number of files examined, amounting to excess payments to state workers of nearly $230,000.

Auditors have called on the state agencies to conduct full internal reviews of their payroll systems for the last three years.

There was no immediate response from the Department of State Hospitals, but a spokesman said the corrections department is conducting such a review and has issued new requirements to document who signs off on payroll decisions.

State audits find prison, hospital payroll abuses - LA Times

Indio council approves response to grand jury AB 109 report

The Indio City Council on Wednesday reviewed the city's response to a Riverside County grand jury report detailing the regional effects of AB 109, 2011 legislation that realigned the state's correctional system to ease overcrowding in state prisons.

The 12-page letter, approved with a 5-0 vote and with no discussion, provides the city's required response to the June 17 grand jury report.

Mayor Michael Wilson attended the meeting via teleconference from Maui, Hawaii.

The civil grand jury cited good and bad results since implementation of the realignment program in October 2011.

The city's letter acknowledges that as with many law enforcement agencies, AB 109 strained resources within the Indio Police Department and throughout the county.

Indio council approves response to grand jury AB 109 report

California Prisons Begin ‘Use-of-Force’ Reforms for Mentally Ill Inmates | State of Health Blog from KQED News

The number of inmates with mild to severe mental illness has grown to 37,000 in California, about a quarter of the prison population.

A series of lawsuits brought by inmates against the state over the last two decades has exposed a correctional system poorly equipped to handle their extraordinary needs.

Now California is trying to comply with a federal court order to change when and how correctional officers use pepper spray to force uncooperative inmates to leave their cells or follow orders.

Pepper spray may have contributed to three inmate deaths and an unknown number of injuries — unknown because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations doesn’t consider the effects of pepper spray an injury.

The issue was brought to light last year through graphic videos shown in court in a lawsuit that was begun in 1990, a lawsuit brought by inmates to improve psychiatric care.

Prisons record some use of force incidents, according to department policy.

California Prisons Begin ‘Use-of-Force’ Reforms for Mentally Ill Inmates | State of Health Blog from KQED News

Eight California Prisons Accredited with the American Correctional Association

The Commission on Accreditation for Corrections has accredited eight additional California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prisons, bringing the total number of accredited California prisons to 16. The most recent round of accreditations was announced yesterday during the American Correctional Association’s (ACA) 144th Congress of Correction in Salt Lake City, Utah.

California Institution for Women, Centinela State Prison, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, Folsom State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison, Sierra Conservation Center and Wasco State Prison and Reception Center achieved near-perfect scores in the ACA evaluation.
“ACA accreditation is an important and highly respected indicator which demonstrates that our state prisons are being operated safely, professionally, humanely and in compliance with the U.S. Constitution,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard. “I commend all CDCR employees for their ongoing commitment to ensuring our facilities meet and exceed such strict standards.”
For more than 143 years, the ACA has been the recognized worldwide authority in corrections and its Commission on Accreditation for Corrections certifies correctional facilities. The ACA is responsible for conducting the audits; the Commission, comprised of corrections professionals from across the country, is responsible for granting or denying the accreditation.
ACA standards are the national benchmark for the effective operation of correctional facilities. The ACA’s Standards Committee continually revises standards based on changing practices, current case law, agency experiences and the expert opinions of corrections professionals, doctors, legal experts and architects. Adult and juvenile facilities, community-based programs, and parole and probation agencies all use ACA standards. Lawyers, judges, county administrators, academia and advocacy groups also use ACA standards as a tool to ensure the constitutional rights of offenders and to protect staff and the public.

Eight California Prisons Accredited with the American Correctional Association

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

UC Davis ‘whistleblower’ wins $730,000 verdict - Sacramento City News - The Sacramento Bee

A Sacramento Superior Court jury has awarded a $730,000 verdict to a former UC Davis administrative nurse who claimed in a lawsuit that her career was ruined when she blew the whistle on an unethical pain management research project on prison inmates.

The jury’s decision came down late Monday in favor of Janet Keyzer, who had worked as an administrative nurse researcher for the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research for more than nine years at the time of her termination in November 2007.

Keyzer, 59, is a 30-year nurse with a Ph.D. in human and community development, according to her lawsuit. She said she was subject to a series of retaliatory actions after she began work on the university’s Community Oriented Pain-Management Exchange Program in December 2006 and raised questions about whether a research project on physically and mentally disabled inmates at San Quentin Prison had obtained the consent from its “human subjects.”

According to Keyzer’s lawsuit, the project gathered medical data from the patient/inmates’ medical records without their permission and without the approval of the university’s Institutional Review Board that is supposed to review all requests for research on people.

When she expressed her concerns to her supervisor, “Ms. Keyzer was ostracized by COPE management and others at the Center,” her lawsuit said. She said her project manager became “hostile, abusive and rude” toward her.

In June 2007, the plaintiff’s husband, Ken Keyzer, a part-time technical staffer on the COPE project, was fired, the suit said. After the termination, Janet Keyzer directly contacted the Institutional Review Board, and it “confirmed the improprieties Ms. Keyzer identified,” her suit said.

UC Davis ‘whistleblower’ wins $730,000 verdict - Sacramento City News - The Sacramento Bee