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California DOC Diverts $480,000 of Drug Treatment Money for Movie Studio

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), while overrunning its 2005 $6.4 billion state budget by $543 million, nonetheless diverted $480,000 of unspent drug treatment money to a private foundation to create a movie studio.

The Amity Foundation, based in Porterville, California, had $3.75 million in contracts to operate drug treatment programs at five CDCR prisons. When $480,000 remained unspent, instead of returning the excess to the states general fund, Amity spent it to create training videos for far-flung prisons to aid counselors in drug programs there. Substance abuse program funds were used to buy everything from high tech cameras to 50-inch plasma screen television sets. They also put the one video they made so far, a 3 1/2 hr. production featuring a renowned drug treatment expert, on sale for $100 on Amitys Web site.

Calling this a giant waste of taxpayer money, a furious state Senator Jackie Speier, when leading a hearing on waste and inefficiencies in state government, held out Amitys largesse as the worst example of those reviewed, topping the 9,000 unaccounted-for state-owned vehicles and countless stolen laptop computers.

The misappropriation was brought to light by whistle blower Richard Krupp, a sharp-eyed CDCR computer analyst who successfully sued CDCR for $500,000 for retaliation for his having reported $200 million in wasteful guard overtime charges. Dean Borg, CDCRs legislative liaison, told Speier that the $480,000 couldnt have been spent on other types of prison drug treatment programs, but Speier snapped, I dont buy that. Krupps meticulous investigation revealed a May 2004 letter from CDCR official Jim LEtoile literally approving the video equipment purchase. Krupps criticism of Amitys purchases noted that CDCR had an excellent studio in its training academy plus a $1 million annual contract with the University of California (San Diego) to provide training to drug treatment counselors. It makes no sense at all from a taxpayer standpoint, Krupp said.

As a result of the publicity, Borg belatedly asked Amity to return the equipment to CDCR. Rod Mullen, Amitys CEO, said privately that their movies were intended to save money for CDCR by making them available to CDCRs remaining 29 prisons.

Krupp, meanwhile, reported that his new boss had suggested repeatedly that Krupp should get another job. It might behoove CDCR to reserve the $480,000 for another retaliation lawsuit.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle.

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