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Brain Dead California Prisoner Guarded Around The Clock

A California parole violator, who was declared brain dead from being shot in the head by a guard at 6,100 bed Wasco State Prison during a lounge-area fight, was guarded at a nearby Bakersfield hospital at a cost of $1,056/day in overtime. $30,000 later, after much adverse publicity, the prisoner was credited with time served and discharged to his family by California Department of Corrections (CDC) officials.

Daniel Provencio, 28, a former high school wrestler and construction worker, had served 3 ½ years on drug charges. He was returned to prison on a parole violation in August, 2004, for drunken driving, gang affiliation, evading arrest and gun possession. He was felled by a 40 mm. rubber projectile, designed for shooting only arms and legs, fired by a guard on January, 16, 2005. While on a ventilator and feeding tubes in intensive care at Mercy Hospital in nearby Bakersfield, he was covered by two CDC guards 24 hours per day, while shackled to the bed. There had been no upgrade in his initial brain-dead diagnosis, but after twenty days, besieged CDC officials agreed to drop one guard and remove the shackles.
Other recent examples of outside hospital CDC guard costs are $81,745 (55 days) for a heavily sedated prisoner and $55,305 (45 days) for a paraplegic with a lung infection. And, after an October 2003 beating by his cellmate at California State Prison, Solano, brain-damaged prisoner Edward Rister lay hospitalized in a comatose state for 16 months. His continuous guarding costs as of February, 2005 exceed $600,000. When queried, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called the guarding of brain-dead prisoners ludicrous." Senator Gloria Romero called the policy totally crazy. There's no reforms, there's no rehabilitation going on." CDC said it was reviewing its public safety is paramount" policy, which costs $61 million per year in overtime to guard and transport ill prisoners. Provencio's mother, Nancy Mendoza, asked, Why do they keep him? How does a dead man do time?" Provencio's wife and four-year old son had hoped for a miracle, and didn't want to pull the plug on Daniel's life support equipment.

On February 14, 2005, Provencio was technically discharged from parole by the Board of Prison Terms. But his condition was too critical to permit him to be transferred to a hospital in the family's home town of Ventura, CA. Provencio finally succumbed from his bullet wounds at Mercy Hospital on March 4, 2005. Although responsibility for his high post-discharge medical costs was in dispute, this may now be resolved in favor of Provencio's family in light of the March 9, 2005 autopsy report that revealed that the supposedly non-lethal rubber bullet caused fatal brain injuries.

The question of the name of the guard who shot Provencio remains unresolved. The Bakersfield Californian newspaper has sought internal CDC investigations records, but CDC will not provide them. The Californian contends this policy is contrary to that of other law enforcement agencies, which routinely release the names of officers involved in shootings. CDC spokesman George Kostyrko said they will not do so without a court order, citing the Peace Officer Bill of Rights as protection. Californian city editor Bob Christie responded that these are unequivocally public records.

Lance Corcoran, vice president of the prison guards union (CCPOA), said that releasing such names can and has brought threats from prison gangs and has resulted in guards being placed on hit lists." In fact, such is the purported case of New Folsom prison guard Sam Bess, who shot and killed a skinhead" who was stabbing another prisoner in the yard on November 30, 2004. Bess, noting that he took a life to save another, complained in March, 2005 that he now has a murder contract out on him because his prison staff didn't do their job in segregating the known disruptive assaulter earlier. In the past twenty years, California prison guards have shot and killed dozens of prisoners while only one guard has been killed by a prisoner.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press.

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