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Report Outlines Abuses By Calif. Prison Staff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California parole agent was accused of soliciting one of his parolees to kill another. Numerous corrections department employees allegedly had sex with inmates, including juveniles.

And a prison guard was suspected of carousing regularly with prisoners, even joining them as they drank a form of booze the inmates manufactured themselves.

The incidents are among 278 cases of alleged employee misconduct detailed in the latest report by the independent inspector general of the state corrections department.

The abuses highlighted in the reports produced every six months raise questions about how effectively the state prison system hires and polices its sworn peace officers.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has promised to better follow existing policies and procedures.

A top prison official said no dramatic policy or training changes are planned as a result of the reports, though "we always strive to make things better."

"We're pretty comfortable or satisfied with the level of screening or prevention that we do already in the department. We have a pretty high bar as it is," said Martin Hoshino, acting undersecretary for operations.

The department has improved since the days when officers were found to have encouraged inmates to engage in what were known as "gladiator fights" or developed a code of silence to protect officers who broke the rules, he said.

"Do we have examples of misconduct? Sure, but I think that's true for any large organization," Hoshino said, adding that most employees follow the rules.

The union representing prisons guards did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on the report, which details cases that were closed during the second half of 2012.

In his previous report in October, the inspector general criticized the corrections department's Southern California internal affairs office for doing a particularly poor job of investigating and prosecuting such complaints.

That region still has the worst record, with nearly a third of allegations handled improperly.

However, many of the allegations of employee abuse predate the department's most recent promises about following its existing rules.

Inspector General Robert Barton says in the latest report that he is optimistic the record will improve.

Details such as where the incidents occurred or what happened to the employees involved are scarce because the inspector general's role is to evaluate whether the department property investigated the reported malfeasance.

The inspector general's office selected the most egregious cases from among 1,074 incidents investigated by the department's internal affairs office.

In one case, a prison guard allegedly stripped off his duty weapons to duke it out with an inmate, then encouraged other guards to cover up the fight.

Among the allegations of improper sexual relations was a case involving a yearlong series of complaints that a high-ranking official at a juvenile facility repeatedly fondled two wards, had sexual skin-to-skin contact with another ward, and watched wards engaging in sexual acts.

The department outlined similar behavior in its report last fall, including the case of one prison employee accused of bearing an inmate's child and another who purportedly sent nude photos of herself to an inmate's contraband cellphone.

Overall, nearly half the allegations in the most recent report involved neglect of duty or dishonesty, while 8 percent alleged unreasonable use of force.

Sexual misconduct was alleged in 2 percent of the reports, 9 percent involved overfamiliarity with inmates, and 5 percent detailed trafficking of contraband — often cellphones that have become a major security risk behind bars.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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