Thursday, March 19, 1998

Letter to the Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle

March 19 1998

San Francisco Chronicle
Letters to the Editor
901 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 95103

Dear Editor:

Your recent article on Corcoran State Prison failed to recount certain crucial facts and I am therefore compelled to respond ("Guards Union Impeding Prison Probe, Critics Say").

As the Chronicle well knows, the FBI explicitly directed the Department of Corrections to refrain from investigating allegations of staff misconduct at Corcoran State Prison. We did exactly that, and we cooperated fully with the FBI’s probe, but instead of reporting that we followed the FBI’s orders, the Chronicle chose to reprint unsubstantiated allegations from unnamed federal sources. The Chronicle also failed to report that it was the Wilson Administration which pressured federal officials into letting us initiate our own investigation at Corcoran, and that it was the Governor himself who asked the California Department of Justice to initiate an independent investigation.

To ignore the facts and skew the truth on such a critical issue, as the Chronicle has done in this case, is the height of irresponsible journalism. While housing the largest prison population in the nation -- 156,000 of the most violent, dangerous felons in this country -- the Department has managed to bring the escape rate down to an all-time low, and to significantly curtail the rate of inmate incidents. This, despite the fact that California’s state prison system has the fourth highest number of inmates per correctional officer (7.6 to 1) in the nation. Rather than be the target of false accusations, the Department should be credited for promoting the safety and security of law-abiding citizens.

C. A. TERHUNE
Director
Department of Corrections