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

Monday, March 16, 1998

MEDIA ACCESS FOR SCHEDULED EXECUTION

The execution of Horace Edwards Kelly, convicted of murder in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has been set by court order for April 14, 1998 at San Quentin State Prison.

Direct all requests and inquiries regarding access to San Quentin to the California Department of Corrections Communications Office in Sacramento which is responsible for all media credentials.

Up to seventeen (17) news media representatives may be selected to witness the execution as a pool for all media. Positions are designated for Associated Press, United Press International, the Riverside Press Enterprise, San Bernardino Sun, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee. One newspaper position will be chosen at random from California newspapers with daily circulation of 100,000 and above who apply. Eight broadcast news positions will be selected at random from California radio and television stations holding a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to broadcast who apply.

Up to one hundred twenty-five (125) news media representatives will be admitted to the media center at San Quentin to attend news briefings and a news conference with members of the media witness pool after the execution. To accommodate as many media firms as possible, each news media organization applying will be limited to one representative. Firms selected to send a news reporter to witness the execution will be allowed a separate representative for the media center.

In anticipation that interest may exceed space, pool arrangements will be necessary for video/audio feeds, and still photos. The pool will be limited to two television camera operators, two still photographers, and one audio engineer.

Broadcast microwave and satellite vans and their support personnel will be permitted in a parking lot adjacent to the In-Service Training (IST) building. Space is limited to about 30 vehicles, including an electrical power generator and a catering truck. Priority will be given to broadcast media sending "live" reports serving viewers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and multiple stations statewide. Television vans will be allowed up to four (4) support personnel (engineer, producer, talent, and camera operator) in addition to the reporter for the media center. Radio broadcast vans will be allowed three (3) support personnel (engineer, producer, and talent) in addition to the media center reporter.

For media credentials, send a written request signed by the news department manager on company letterhead with the names of the proposed representatives, their dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, and the size of vehicle (for broadcast van access) to:

CDC Communications
1515 S Street, Room 113S
P.O. Box 942338
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

Please specify if the request also is to be included in the media witness pool selection process.

Fax or telephone requests will not be accepted. All requests must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 1998. Security clearances are required for each individual applying for access to San Quentin. The clearance process will begin after the application deadline. No assurances can be provided that security clearances for applications received after the April 7 deadline, including for personnel substitutions, will be completed in time to permit access to the prison April 13.

The building being used for the media center has 60 amp electrical service with a limited number of outlets. There are seven (7) pay telephones. The media pool will be responsible for providing a generator for electrical power and a catering service. Media orders for private telephone hookups must be arranged with Pacific Telephone which will coordinate the actual installation with San Quentin.

MEDIA ACCESS FOR EXECUTION

The California Department of Corrections will be processing security clearances for media firms requesting to send representatives to San Quentin State Prison for the April 14 execution of Horace Kelly, should it proceed as scheduled.

All requests for media credentials must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 1998. The written request must be signed by the news department manager on company letterhead with the names of the media organization’s proposed representatives, their dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, and the size of the vehicle (for broadcast van access) to:

CDC Communications
1515 S Street, Room 113S
P.O. Box 942338
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001

Please specify if the request also is to be included in the media witness pool selection process. The drawing, based on selection criteria, will be conducted from requests received by CDC Communications by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, 1998.

Security clearances are required for each individual applying for access to San Quentin. The clearance process will begin after the application deadline. Security clearances for requests received after the deadline, including those for personnel substitutions, may not be completed in time to permit access to the prison April 13.

Each news media organization applying will be limited to one representative to the media center. Firms selected to send a news reporter to witness the execution will be allowed a separate representative for the media center.

There will be a video/audio/still photo pool. The broadcast pool is being arranged by the Northern California Radio Television News Directors Association and the Radio Television News Association in southern California. The pool will be limited to two television camera operators, two still photographers, and one audio engineer. The media pool also is arranging for the generator to provide electrical power.

Broadcast microwave and satellite vans and their support personnel will be permitted on a space available basis to a parking lot adjacent to the building being used as the media center. Space will be limited to broadcast media transmitting "live" reports. Priority will be given to broadcast media serving viewers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and multiple stations statewide. Television vans will be permitted up to four (4) support personnel (engineer, producer, camera operator, and talent) Radio broadcast vans will be allowed three (3) support personnel (engineer, producer, and talent).

Friday, March 13, 1998

CORRECTIONS DEFENDS ITS STAFF

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) will provide legal representation for eight employees facing federal allegations over two 1994 incidents at California State Prison, Corcoran.

"After reviewing the evidence and statements given under oath, I believe these officers have acted appropriately," said Corrections Director C. A. Terhune. "It is important that we support our officers who put their lives on the line every day they go to work."

The federal charges concern two inmate fights at the prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). The unit houses the most predatory and violent offenders in the prison system. Many are gang members who attack prison staff and other inmates. Confining these predators to the SHU improves safety for the majority of inmates and Department staff.

By law, inmates in SHU must be released 10 hours per week for exercise. It is during these periods most of the inmate fights occur. Of the more than 14,300 SHU exercise yard periods at Corcoran last year, there were 336 inmate fights. Correctional officers had to use weapons to stop 130 of the fights to protect inmates from suffering great bodily injury or death.

CDC staff have a range of weapons to control inmate violence. These include tear gas, pepper spray, riot control guns that fire rubber and wooden blocks, shotguns, and rifles. These tools allow officers to use only the necessary level of force to restore security.

"Every day our nearly 30,000 peace officers are called on to make difficult life and death decisions," said Terhune. "We do not want them to hesitate to follow policy to use appropriate force to save lives. It is important for staff to know the Department will stand behind them when they do their jobs correctly."

The Department conducted a thorough management review of Corcoran SHU operations in November 1996 and provided staff with detailed training on Department policies. These included appropriate inmate classification for cell and exercise yard assignments, and appropriate use of force.

In November 1997, the Department concluded there was no evidence to support wide ranging accusations of staff conspiracies to abuse inmates at Corcoran, or that staff interfered with FBI investigators.

"The FBI has had the Department’s full cooperation," said Terhune. "There has been a standing order from Headquarters since 1994 to provide the FBI with any records or access it wants. The Department even delayed its own investigation at the request of the FBI."

The Department has the statutory discretion to provide legal representation for an employee charged with committing a crime during the scope of his or her employment. The criteria are:

  1. That a defense would be in the best interests of the Department;
  2. That the employee acted in good faith and without malice; and
  3. That the employee acted in the apparent interests of the Department.

Friday, March 6, 1998

Letter to the Editor of the Sacramento Bee

March 6, 1998

Sacramento Bee
Letters to the Editor
P.O. Box 15779
Sacramento, CA 95852-0779

Dear Editor:

While acknowledging that federal authorities prevented the Department of Corrections from fully investigating the death of a Corcoran State Prison inmate, the Bee’s recent coverage of this incident unfairly casts a shadow on the entire prison system.

By keeping almost 156,000 convicted felons off the streets, the department is effectively protecting Californians from the most serious and violent criminals in this state. In carrying out this vital and ever increasing responsibility, the department has managed to bring the escape rate down to an all-time low, and to cut the rate of inmate incidents in half since the early 80s.

Reasonable people can disagree about the policies the department uses to manage the inmate population, but one thing is beyond dispute, the correctional policies in place today, coupled with increased training for prison staff, have significantly enhanced public safety. Additionally, California has succeeded in avoiding the massive inmate uprisings which have threatened the security of entire prisons in other states.

When Governor Wilson recently appointed me as director, he asked me to take a hard look at the prison system. Since assuming this position seven months ago, I’ve inspected all 33 prisons and found the wardens, managers, and rank and file staff to be competent, caring professionals.

While the system isn’t perfect, we’re constantly making improvements. The vast majority of the nearly 44,000 employees in this department are above reproach. For the Bee to depict the alleged wrongdoing of a few individuals as a system in trouble does a tremendous disservice to the tens of thousands of honest, hard-working men and women who put their lives at risk in helping to promote the safety and security of law-abiding citizens.
Sincerely,

C. A. TERHUNE
Director
Department of Corrections

Monday, March 2, 1998

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS OFFERS REWARD IN MURDER OF CORRECTIONAL OFFICER

The California Department of Corrections is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the murder last month of Correctional Officer Elizabeth Begaren.

Officer Begaren was found shot to death on the East Street on-ramp to eastbound 91 freeway in Anaheim about 11:00 p.m. on January 17. Just prior to the shooting, Officer Begaren was in a car with her husband, Nuzzio Begaren. His 10-year old daughter was also a passenger in the car.

Detectives are asking for information from anyone who might have seen suspicious activity such as people arguing in a vehicle, a vehicle stopped at the side of the road, or one vehicle chasing another vehicle.

Officer Begaren had been employed by the Department of Corrections for nine years and was currently assigned to California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster.

The Anaheim Police Department is looking for any information that might lead them to suspects in the case. Anyone with information in the case should contact Detective Fred Pittington at (714) 765-1582.