Thursday, August 22, 1996


Gang activity is one of the most serious threats to prison safety and security. Gang members who assault other inmates and prison staff are the most violent and predatory in California prisons.

These predators are removed from general population and placed in Security Housing Units (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison and Corcoran State Prison or in Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) units at each of California's 32 prisons.

"Isolating these 4,000 inmates who cannot behave within the prison system protects the remaining 137,000 inmates who want to do their prison sentences peacefully," said James H. Gomez, Director of the California Department of Corrections (CDC). "The difference is 60 to 70 inmates a year who aren't being killed because these predators are isolated from the rest of the prison population."

In the 1970s, one out of every 1,800 inmates was killed by another inmate. In the 1980s, one out of every 3,500 inmates was killed by another inmate. In the 1990s, one out of every 12,000 inmates is killed by another inmate. Much of this reduction of violence is a result of isolating violent predators from the rest of the prison population.

Predatory inmates remain in controlled housing until they can prove they can live peacefully with rival gang members. CDC has had a policy since 1984 of integrating rival gang members during constitutionally required exercise periods at all SHU and Ad Seg areas.

Effective prison management requires identifying inmates on an individual basis to determine the appropriate mix to minimize potential violence. It is necessary to evaluate the inmates behavior with rivals in a secure controlled setting before returning them to less restrictive housing where they would associate with larger numbers of inmates, including potential rivals.

Corcoran State Prison will return to this policy within 30 days. It is a man aged and measured process to screen all inmates. Inmates known to be enemies are not placed together in exercise or other environments.

"No one is more concerned about safety in prison than I am," said Director Gomez. "The success of the system which is aimed at improving safety for all inmates and staff is the proper management of this process by prison staff."

CDC staff have been provided with pepper gas spray and other non-lethal tools to control outbreaks of violence. The goal is to limit the amount of force to only what is necessary to restore security.

Wednesday, August 14, 1996


More than 2,100 orange-suited California prison inmates are working side-by-side with other fire crews battling the numerous fires raging throughout the state.

Inmates from 138 crews from 36 of the state's 38 conservation camps are clearing fire lines on 15 separate fires. The 2,194 inmates and 142 staff from the California Department of Corrections (CDC) are assigned to fires in 21 counties, from Modoc in the north to Riverside in the south. They will remain on the fires until they are fully contained and will then be deployed to another fire.

The inmates are normally assigned to the conservation camps, or minimum security prisons, located in rural areas. The Camps house almost 4,000 inmates and are jointly operated by CDC and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (CDF).

CDC oversees camp security and operations; its staff provides the necessary security while inmates are on the fire line. CDF provides fire fighting training and supervises inmate firefighting efforts.

Inmates serve their sentences at conservation camps after passing a highly selective screening process and a rigorous firefighting training regime. A typical firefighting inmate was convicted of a nonviolent offense, has an average sentence of two years and will spend about eight months in camp before parole.

When not fighting fires, inmates are dispatched to other emergency and non-emergency tasks including earthquake response, flood control, wildlife habitat preservation and graffiti removal.

During an average fire season, inmates work up to two million hours in fire prevention and firefighting response. They are paid $1.00 an hour on the fire lines and from $1.45 to $3.90 a day for non-emergency work.

It is estimated that state and local government save more than $70 million that otherwise would be paid to accomplish the work inmates perform.

Tuesday, August 13, 1996


Correctional Officer Lyn Pinckney of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) today was awarded the 1996 Richard A. McGee Award for his outstanding contributions to the community of Blythe and the significant savings of taxpayer dollars.

Officer Pinckney has distinguished himself and the Department through extensive innovation in his field of responsibility said James Gomez, Director of Corrections. He enabled state, county, and city government agencies to save nearly $200,000 in labor costs.

Pinckney was honored for his outstanding work with the inmate community work crew program at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) in Blythe. Under Pinckney, the inmate work crew has cleaned roadsides, and maintained public parks, the Blythe Cemetery and public easements in Blythe. The Blythe City Council has also commended Officer Pinckney for his crew's work in the city.

The Richard A. McGee Award is made annually by the American Justice Institute (AJI), a national organization that conducts research and planning in the correctional field and recognizes excellence and innovation by correctional staff.

Officer Pinckney joined CDC in 1986 and has worked at CVSP since 1988. He has served as the Olympic Games Coordinator for CVSP and was a member of the Negotiations Management Team. He has also served as an Acting Correctional Counselor I and as an Acting Correctional Sergeant.

Pinckney was born and raised in Napa, California, and attended Monterey Peninsula College.