The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 17, 2010
Inmate alleges retaliation for talking to The Bee

Are correctional officers retaliating against state prison inmates for speaking up about prison conditions? He says yes. They say no.

Rufus Gray, currently an inmate at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, told The Bee in a May story about alleged racism and cruelty he suffered while imprisoned at High Desert State Prison in Susanville.

"It was a strip-search, buck-naked in the snow," Gray said. He was among many inmates who told The Bee about hours-long searches in freezing conditions.RB Corcoran BMU 1.JPG

Now he says in a letter that guards at his current prison refer to him as "the infamous Gray" for his comments to The Bee. Gray said he had been restricted from adequate use of the prison law library, and has been placed in administrative segregation -- a prison within the prison -- after having been caught up in what he called a "staged racial riot" at Calipatria State Prison, east of San Diego, where he previously was housed. He blamed his treatment on retaliation for talking to The Bee.

Cassandra Hockenson, a spokesperson for the corrections department, said that Gray was transferred out of Calipatria due to his participation in the riot. Regarding his charge of retaliation, she said, "as far as we know, there's no such thing happening."

Several other inmates have written to say that editions of The Bee that contained the prison series were withheld from distribution in some prisons. Corrections officials said in some cases, mail backlogs may have delayed distribution, but that the prisons work to correct any such problems when they occur.

-Charles Piller

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