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Audit Shows Folsom Prison Mismanaged

In December 2001, the state inspector general concluded an excoriating audit of a city-run prison in Folsom, California. The audit was the result of a six-month investigation that met a great deal of resistance from Folsom officials. It "revealed deteriorating buildings, broken equipment, lax supervision of inmates, visitors and volunteers, and easy access on the part of inmates to tools and supplies that could be used as weapons." The audit also noted that the "main front door of the facility could not be locked."

In 1990, the city of Folsom contracted with the state DOC for a set fee per prisoner. The audit also said that prison Director, Wally Smith, was a major part of the problem. Smith averaged a four-hour workday with extended lunch breaks, the report says. His salary averaged $104,265 annually. In 2001 he made $163,922 with a $23,000 bonus. He also received holiday pay even though he hadn't worked a holiday since Dec. 31, 1999. Smith made more than any other prison warden in the state, including the warden of San Quentin whose 6,500-prisoner population is nearly 20 times more than the city-run prison. The audit also showed that Smith received the "lowest scores ever recorded."

Other problems included a guard charged with date rape who continued to work for the prison until he was convicted of sexual battery and supplying a woman with methamphetamine and a cook accused of selling drugs to prisoners and borrowing money from a prisoner's wife. There was no system for accounting for cash deposited in prisoners' accounts and investigators discovered a canteen manager who received $600 for uniform expenses but doesn't wear a uniform. Investigators also found a front door that could not be locked, broken security cameras, and a broken control panel designed to lock cell doors.

Records indicate that the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration had not inspected the prison since 1994, creating a dangerous environment for prisoners. Over 150 injuries occurred from Jan. 2000 through July 2001. One prisoner filed suit against the prison when he was crushed into unconsciousness after being trapped by a defective conveyor belt.

The audit cited the fact that old bank statements and credit card bills are in the trash being sorted by prisoners who work at the trash facility. "As a result, residents are being place at risk of identity theft, burglary, and other crimes," the audit says. City Manager, Martha Clark Lofgren denies any risk. "There isn't anything to it," she says. Prisoners "are strip-searched when they go in and when they go out ...[in] all the years the recycling has gone on, there has never been an incident of identity theft."

Lofgren also defends the former warden. "Wally is a hard worker," she said. "He was dedicated to the city of Folsom." Lofgren attributes Smith's short working hours to an undisclosed medical condition. According to her, the audit contains "overstatements and... inaccuracies. I think the inspector general mischaracterized some of the things that happened." She went on to say, "Wally and I had talked about his retirement date ever since I became city manager." At the time of the interview, however, she had been city manager less than 24 hours. Warden Smith retired in December, just before the audit results were published.

Assistant secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, Stephen Green, predicts that the Folsom contract will probably be cancelled and state DOC officials will decide whether or not to shut the facility down.

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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