California Prison Guards Keep Jobs After Aiding Attacks on Sex Offenders
The attorneys argued that the allegations against the officers were substantiated only by the testimony of prisoners and that evidence of that sort would not hold up before the State Personnel Board.
A parallel investigation by the state Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which is tasked with overseeing the conduct of corrections department employees, concluded on January 10, 2020 that the evidence in this particular case was adequate to pursue the termination of the six guards identified by the warden. Inspector General Roy Wesley, however, expressed concern that it might set a dangerous precedent when it came to firing officers based solely on the word of prisoners.
Dana Simas, a spokesperson for CDCR, disagreed with the assertion that the department was dismissive of prisoner testimony: “We take all allegations of staff misconduct very seriously and are committed to providing thorough and fair investigations.”
The OIG’s report determined that assaults had taken place over several months in 2017 and were enabled by the guards opening cell doors to give a group of prisoners access to the sex offenders. Those convicted of sex crimes are often housed separately for their protection.
The administration was made aware of the employees’ role in the assaults when one of the prisoners perpetrating the violence stepped forward. For reasons that are unclear, he had grown concerned that, according to the report, “other inmates would attack him, and he knew there was a variety of weapons in the housing unit.”
The prisoner backed up his statement by revealing where the weapons were hidden in a wall cavity for plumbing pipes. Only guards had the keys to gain access to that area, and four additional prisoners verified that the weapons stashed there had been used in the assaults.
The OIG agreed with the warden’s assessment that six of the officers involved should have been fired. Two were terminated due to unrelated cases, one resigned because of an unrelated case, and another resigned rather than be let go due to a role in the prisoner attacks.
“The department thoroughly weighed all of the evidence in the case against the two remaining officers before the decision to not sustain misconduct allegations was made,” said Simas.
The OIG pointed out that, in the past, judges had only thrown out cases that hinged on prisoner testimony if those prisoners had specific credibility issues.