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Wardens “Retire” from Two California Women’s Prisons

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) called the July 29, 2016 “retirement” of wardens at two state women’s prisons a “coincidence.” However, Colby Lenz, a legal advocate with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, commenting on the abrupt departures of the wardens at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) – Deborah “DK” Johnson – and the California Institution for Women (CIW) – Kimberly Hughes – said they appeared to be “forced retirements.”

Both facilities have been the subjects of lengthy state investigations. Problems at CIW have included a suicide rate five times the state and federal average, plus a high rate of methamphetamine use. CCWF is overcrowded and has been cited for a lack of supervision and a culture of sex abuse, fear and retaliation. Additionally, CCWF Associate Warden Travis Wright, 44, was arrested in June 2016 on several child sex abuse charges.

Observers contend the personnel changes are a move by CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan to clean house. “There are serious problems there, including verbal abuse of prisoners, failure to protect them from other prisoners, contraband, sexual abuse – mostly in the form of ‘If you do me a favor, I’ll do you a favor’ – that kind of thing,” said Don Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office, a public-interest law firm based in Northern California. “There’s a lot of fear, and fear of retaliation for reporting misconduct,” he added. “We were not surprised the state would take this action.”


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