The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

August 3, 2010
Corrections officials say budget woes affect weapons training

The state Office of the Inspector General has found that some state prisons are refusing to implement weapons training recommendations - leading to alarming safety concerns.

At Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad and the California Institution for Men in Chino, prison officials "allow custody officers who have not fulfilled quarterly weapons proficiency requirements to work in armed posts," including regular employees, guards providing vacation or sick relief, or those swapping assignments.

Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate responded in a letter that budget shortages have made such training infeasible.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation "opens itself to potentially costly lawsuits in the event of a questionable shooting," says the report, "and creates a situation that may lead to tragedy." The agency found 23 percent of Salinas Valley officers it reviewed hadn't met weapons requirements.

Donald Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, said officers without sufficient training in armed stations could be "potentially a serious problem."

The Inspector General's Office, which provides some oversight on corrections operations, prepared the report (available at to follow up on audits that took place between 2000 and 2008.

About two-thirds of problems identified in the audits were fixed. Folsom State Prison implemented all applicable recommendations. In contrast, Salinas Valley complied with just eight of 21 recommendations, neglecting educational opportunities for inmates, conducting improper cell searches and failing to document use-of-force incidents in a timely manner, the report says.

- Charles Piller

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