A Special Investigations Team (SIT) assembled by the Department of Corrections (CDC) specifically to investigate allegations of a widespread staff conspiracy to abuse inmates at California State Prison, Corcoran has concluded its investigation.
SIT investigators found no evidence to support the allegations.
SIT investigators found there was no high speed chase involving CDC staff and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Investigators also concluded CDC staff never impeded the Federal investigation.
SIT investigators discovered isolated incidents of staff misconduct. Disciplinary action is pending against 13 staff concerning several incidents of excessive force. Two have been fired, four suspended, one demoted, and penalty levels are being reviewed for six others.
In addition, investigators substantiated claims that some Corcoran inmates inappropriately were directly involved in the preparation of sensitive and/or critical CDC documents. The practice of using inmates for clerical help in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) has since been prohibited.
SIT found a few current and/or former members of the Investigative Services Unit and Security Squad were involved inappropriately in investigating allegations of misconduct in incidents in which they were involved or personally witnessed.
“The misconduct by a few employees should not stain the professional reputation of the 1,700 men and women who work at Corcoran,” said C.A. Terhune, Director of Corrections. “I want to commend the investigators for a comprehensive and thorough report that has helped identify those involved in wrongdoing.”
SIT investigators interviewed 250 employees and inmates, analyzed inmate polygraph results and reviewed thousands of documents and records in examining allegations of staged fights, tier stacking, wagering on inmate fights, ghost writing of reports/altered reports, excessive force, and cover up of excessive force.
The 18-member team initiated its investigation in November 1996. The inquiry was ordered by Governor Wilson because the legal time limit was approaching on CDC’s ability to take administrative personnel action should staff misconduct be found. The allegations surfaced in mid-1994. CDC delayed its inquiry at the request of the United States Department of Justice that had assigned its staff from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney General’s Office to determine whether criminal conduct had occurred. Simultaneous investigations also were conducted by the California Department of Justice and the King’s County Grand Jury. CDC has cooperated fully with federal, state, and local inquiries providing access to staff, facilities, and documents. The King’s County Grand Jury has questioned staff as has a Federal Grand Jury in Fresno.
The California Department of Justice ended its investigation at Corcoran concluding there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.
“I appreciate the cooperation and assistance provided by the FBI, and the California Department of Justice,” said C.A. Terhune, Director of Corrections. “It is important that law enforcement agencies work together to investigate allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct.”
The Corcoran SHU integrated exercise yards policy, and use of force previously were examined at the prison. CDC found confusion among staff concerning the classification committee process which determines inmate housing and exercise yard assignments at Corcoran SHU. Additional training was provided in December 1996 to Corcoran staff on the appropriate application of the integrated exercise yard policy, and the inmate classification process.
Over the last two and half years, four separate investigations of excessive force at Corcoran have been conducted. The earliest investigations were started by CDC in June 1995 and involved allegations of excessive force by Corcoran staff during a bus transportation incident and in an inmate housing unit weapons search by the Corcoran Special Emergency Response Team. These investigations found sufficient evidence of excessive force by Corcoran staff to warrant adverse actions against 15 staff. Personnel actions ranged from reprimand to dismissal. These investigations are closed.
California’s most violent and predatory prison inmates are housed in Security Housing Units. Segregating those nearly 3,000 predators has made the rest of the prison system safer for the remaining 153,000 inmates as well as for CDC staff and visitors.