Story Stream
recent articles

Waste of the Day: Despite Targeted Funding, California Prisons Didn’t Fix Disciplinary Process

February 12, 2024

Topline: California’s prison system received $34 million to institute reforms related to staff misconduct allegations. Although new rules were put forward, the process never changed because prison staffers continued to operate under the old rules.

Key facts: Inmates can file reports with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) if they believe they have been mistreated. If the mistreatment stems from a prison employee, the issue is addressed by a team from another prison to avoid bias.

Open the Books
Waste of the Day 2.12.24

In 2021, the state inspector general found that prison staffers were the ones determining if a misconduct allegation against themselves or their colleagues was worth flagging for investigation, presenting an obvious conflict of interest.

The department requested $34 million from the state in its 2022 budget to “restructure its staff misconduct allegation screening.” The rule changes were made on paper, but prison staffers kept following the old system anyway, leading the state inspector general to criticize the $34 million in “wasted resources" in a Jan. 29 report.

As a result, 595 allegations of misconduct against prison staff were classified as “routine grievances” and investigated by the same prisons where the misconduct may have occurred.

The process “resulted in a wasteful duplication of efforts and misallocation of resources” because investigative work had already begun on some of the 595 cases before they were reclassified, according to the IG.

The drawn-out process also caused the statute of limitations to expire on 127 cases, 22 of which could have caused a prison employee to be fired had the case been investigated.

Background: While it’s impossible to quantify the dollar cost of the misallocated resources on top of the wasted $34 million, CDCR's budget doesn't have excess funds to spare. The department spent almost $2.5 billion just to pay outside vendors in 2022, according to OpentheBooks.com.

The 2023-24 budget allocates $14.5 billion for the department, more than any other state prison system.

Supporting quote: “This reassignment complied with regulations and was shared with the Office of the Inspector General in advance,” CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Macomber wrote in his response to the IG report. “Of note, the reassigned grievances amounted to less than one-third of one percent of all grievances reviewed by the Department in calendar year 2023.”

Critical quote: “The department’s attempt to downplay the impact of its decision by pointing out that it only affected a small percentage of grievances ignores the impact its decision had on the incarcerated people whose allegations of staff misconduct were not reviewed in compliance with the department’s current regulations,” the IG wrote in the report.

Summary: $34 million is a lot of money just to rewrite the rules of a bureaucratic process, especially if the process is never actually changed.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.
Newsletter Signup