Sacramento—The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has launched an aggressive investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct among staff and inmates at its four women’s prisons.
Five employees have resigned under the intense scrutiny and another dozen are the focus of investigation at the California Institution for Women in Frontera (CIW). CDC officials expect the investigation could broaden to include up to 40 more staff at CIW alone. A search of a housing unit at the prison Tuesday, Sept. 21, yielded additional evidence.
“From the day Governor Davis took office, he made clear to me that he will not tolerate anything less than the highest professional standards in corrections, and we intend to root out and remove any staff who cannot meet those standards,” said C.A. “Cal” Terhune, Director of CDC. “We have a zero-tolerance stance for any kind of inappropriate behavior by staff, including sexual misconduct”
“Sexual misconduct between prison staff and inmates is particularly abhorrent because of the inherent problems of staff having complete authority over inmates,” Terhune noted. “We absolutely will not, under any circumstance, permit that kind of behavior between a vulnerable inmate and a staff person.”
“Corrections is setting up a hotline for female inmates that will allow them direct access to the CDC Office of Internal Affairs,” Terhune added. “We want women in our prisons to know that we take their complaints seriously and will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by staff.”
To date the investigation has led to the resignation of two employees after they were found dating parolees. Another has been placed on administrative leave and is currently pending prosecution by the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office for sexual assault.
In addition, another staff resigned while awaiting result of an investigation into an allegation that he is the father of an inmate’s child.
Today’s announcement by Corrections officials continues an extensive campaign launched after wardens from several women’s prisons called for investigations of staff misconduct.
To date CDC’s efforts to address the issue of staff sexual misconduct with inmates has included the following:
- In November 1998 a task force was formed to investigate similar problems at another women’s prison.
- In March 1999 the Warden at CIW and four other high-ranking CDC officials attended a seminar in Washington, D.C. that focused on how to uncover and identify serious misconduct issues.
- CDC Director Terhune signed an April 1999 memo to all employees stating the Department’s zero-tolerance for inappropriate behavior. The memo stated that, “There is no such thing as a consensual sexual relationship between staff and inmates under California law.” It also reminded CDC staff that, “As an employee of CDC, it is your responsibility to report all allegations, observations or information you receive regarding violations of the law and policies governing this misconduct. Failure to report these crimes will result in disciplinary action.”
- Last month, Director Terhune established a Task Force of wardens assigned to women’s prisons to review policy issues related to managing female offenders. The Task Force is charged with recommending policy changes relative to gender specific assignments, identifying and removing barriers to reporting sexual misconduct, and other issues related to female offenders.
- This past summer two CDC investigators attended specialized training to investigate sexual assault. The training, certified by the state’s Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST), gives CDC the expertise necessary to investigate an issue that is always considered difficult, even outside prison walls.
- Since then, CDC has developed a detailed and thorough investigative protocol and launched a training program on investigative procedures, which is expected to receive POST certification in the near future. Training includes medical protocols, reporting forms, applicable laws and related issues critical to sound investigations of sexual assault.
- The Department is supporting the administration-sponsored SB 377, Polanco that would broaden existing prohibitions against sexual relations between inmates and staff. Such relations are currently punishable as misdemeanors.
CDC’s response to the problem began with a warden’s request for an investigation when an inmate accused a staff person of fathering her child. As investigators began to look into the issue, they uncovered additional instances of illegal and inappropriate conduct between staff and inmates.
“This Department does not intend to conclude this investigation until we are sure that such behavior has been eliminated,” Terhune said. “