Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

California Inspector General’s Audit of Women’s Prison And Warden Is Generally Favorable

By John E. Dannenberg

California law (Penal Code § 6126(a)(2)) requires the new warden of a state prison to be evaluated by the State Inspector General (IG) within twelve months prior to their state Senate confirmation hearing. The same law also requires the IG to audit and report on each prison every four years. Accordingly, Warden Dawn Davison of the California Institution for Women (CIW), and the prison itself, were audited in December 2007.

Warden Davison was recommended for retention. Based upon surveys, including personal interviews with prisoners and staff, Davison was regarded as honest, knowledgeable, compassionate and devoted to CIW’s mission. She is recognized as a state-wide expert on gender-specific issues. Her novel Bonding Mothers with Babies program, which permits mothers delivering at CIW to care for their children for 15 months in prison, was given high marks. If anything, Davison’s openness left some with the feeling that she was not strict enough, particularly in matters of personnel discipline.

In the criticism department, the IG found that only 42 percent of available classroom hours were attended. Of this, 28 percent was due to institutional closures related to custody issues, lack of air conditioning and lack of substitute teachers. A trend of students to miss class and escape disciplinary measures was noted. While education was generally well rated, it was critiqued where prisoners with low reading abilities were not being assigned to adult basic education classes.

Also observed was that CIW’s medical staff missed the required 14-day follow-up care window a full 50% of the time, on average by an additional 12 days. And half of use-of-force incident packages were not filed in Sacramento within the requisite 30 days. Visiting staff was unfamiliar with procedures when audited in an unannounced visit. Finally, seven peace officers had not taken required firearms training while assigned to armed posts.

The prison audit revealed both successes as well as nominal deficiencies. In the former category, CIW was commended on its growth of programming opportunities, including substance abuse training, firefighting training, self-help groups and community improvement projects. CIW’s Family Reunification Program, which aids incarcerated mothers regain and maintain contact with their children, was highly rated. CIW’s unique educational activities include the Chaffey College Program, the Prison Pup Program (training service dogs for mobility-impaired persons in the community) and the Alpha Faith-Based program. Mental health care at CIW was also lauded. CIW’s Prison Industry Authority (PIA) programs in carpentry apprenticeship and its textile factory (the latter with $3 million annual revenue fabricating prison clothing) were recognized.

CIW is an aging facility suffering from lack of preventive maintenance as well as remediation of old lead-based paint. Physical plant deterioration lead the list of prison deficiencies. Needed repairs were identified in support care, the inner perimeter fence, roofs and roads.

In response to the audit, Corrections Secretary James Tilton agreed to remedy the deficiencies. Curiously, since the audit, Secretary Tilton retired while IC Matthew Cate was appointed as his replacement. Knowing Correction’s deficiencies first-hand from years as Inspector General, Secretary Cate should not require much arm-twisting to make the necessary changes.

See: Office of the Inspector General, The California Institution for Women Quadrennial and Warden Audit, December 2007.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login