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California: Confidential Lifer Files Found Discarded in Dumpster Outside Prison

Mysteriously, the files of eight California prisoners serving life sentences turned up in a dumpster at a Shell gas station outside the California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo. The files were found by a homeless couple looking for recyclables; the question is how the files got there.

A subsequent investigation conducted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation revealed that all eight lifers were convicted of murder and either had been or were going to be represented by a local attorney, Peter Ferguson, at parole consideration hearings.

When he was contacted, Ferguson cast the blame on his wife, saying she had recently cleaned their car and suggesting that, in doing so, she may have thrown out the box of files accidentally.

Even that explanation, however, begs the question of how the prisoners’ files made it out of the prison in the first place?

Fortunately, many of the documents in the discarded box of files were labeled “Board of Prison Terms” (the former name of the Board of Parole Hearings), and the couple who found them was not as quick to throw them away as Mrs. Ferguson apparently had been.

Still, the files were confidential. They contained personal information about the eight CMC prisoners, including their Social Security numbers, criminal histories and psychological evaluations. Most of that information is protected under the state Privacy Act. Additionally, under the California Business and Professions Code, as well as under the state Bar Code, attorneys have an express duty to protect the confidence and privacy of their clients.

While the Privacy Act provides for both criminal and civil penalties, it is unlikely that charges will be filed against anyone involved in this incident.

Sources: Cal Coast News,

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