Monday, February 13, 2017

More than 200 CDCR inmate firefighters respond to Oroville spillway crisis

OROVILLE ― Erosion and flooding along emergency spillways near the Oroville Dam forced mass evacuations Sunday and 234 inmate firefighters from 19 crews in 10 CDCR/CAL FIRE camps have responded to the crisis. 

Evacuation orders were delivered to residents surrounding Lake Oroville at approximately 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The California Department of Water Resources has been monitoring conditions at Lake Oroville’s main and auxiliary spillways around the clock for signs of erosion that could threaten the integrity of the emergency spillway and allow large, uncontrolled flows to the Feather River.

To lower the lake level and thus reduce flows and the potential for erosion at the top of the emergency spillway, DWR increased flows down the main spillway’s damaged, concrete chute to 100,000 cubic feet per second. Current releases remain within the capacity of downstream channels. Oroville Dam, the tallest in the United States, is a separate structure from the emergency spillway and remains sound.

The inmate firefighters cleared debris near the emergency spillway to Oroville Dam and helped local officials as they worked to contain damage from the dam’s primary spillway, which was damaged extensively by record run-off.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued an emergency flash flood warning at 8:28 p.m. Sunday for the potential failure of a portion of the auxiliary spillway of the Oroville Dam. The warning remains in effect until 4:15 p.m. Feb. 13 for South Central Butte County.

Residents should follow evacuation instructions issued by local authorities.

Locations impacted include Oroville, Palermo, Gridley, Thermalito, South Oroville, Oroville Dam, Oroville East and Wyandotte.
NWS officials advice that residents in the warning area move to higher ground now and act quickly to prevent loss of lives. Drivers should turn around when encountering flooded roads, since most flood deaths occur in vehicles.

Inmate firefighters from the Mount Bullion Camp in Mariposa also filled sandbags and helped contain localized flooding in Merced County this weekend, in the aftermath of last week’s rainfall.

There are 43 conservation camps for adult offenders and one camp for juvenile offenders. Three of the adult offender camps house female firefighters. Thirty-nine adult camps and the juvenile offender camp are jointly managed by CDCR and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Five camps are jointly managed with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

In an average year, the Conservation Camp program provides approximately three million person-hours responding to fires and other emergencies and seven million person-hours in community service projects, saving California taxpayers approximately $100 million. Those projects can include clearing fire breaks, restoring historical structures, maintaining parks, sand bagging and flood protection, reforestation and clearing fallen trees and debris.

Inmates considered potential fire crew members are trained in firefighting techniques by CAL FIRE, which includes a week of classroom instruction and a second week of field exercises.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wasco State Prison Investigating Inmate Death as a Homicide

WASCO – Wasco State Prison (WSP) officials are investigating the death of an inmate as a possible homicide.

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, inmate Jason Morris, 43, was found unresponsive in his cell. Responding staff immediately initiated lifesaving measures. An ambulance was summoned; however, Morris was pronounced dead at 3:25 p.m.

Morris was received into the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from Fresno County on Nov. 8, 2016. He was serving two concurrent three-year sentences for lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years old.

Morris’ cellmate, age 36, has been identified as the suspect. He was received into CDCR custody from Orange County on Feb. 1, 2017, with a sentence of 14 years for assault with a deadly weapon. His name is being withheld pending investigation.

Investigators from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office are assisting in the investigation. The Office of the Inspector General has been notified.

The primary mission of Wasco State Prison is to provide short-term housing necessary to process, classify and evaluate new inmates physically and mentally, to determine their security level, program requirements, and appropriate institutional placement. A 400-bed medium-custody facility houses general population inmates to help support and maintain the reception center. A minimum-custody facility provides institutional maintenance and landscaping services. The prison was activated in 1991 and houses approximately 5,000 inmates and employs 1,500 people.

Feb. 8, 2017

CONTACT: Lt. Martin Herrera
  (661) 758-8400 ext. 5016


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Kern Valley State Prison Officers Quell Large-Scale Riot

DELANO – Custody staff at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) quickly contained, isolated and controlled a large-scale incident on the prison’s maximum-security yard today.

At 10:43 a.m. a fight amongst four inmates on the recreational yard quickly escalated into a riot involving approximately 125 inmates. Correctional officers used multiple less-than-lethal force options including pepper spray, chemical agents and various direct impact rounds to quell the incident. Responding staff controlled the incident within minutes.

Officers recovered seven inmate-made weapons.

A second incident occurred at the same time in one of the housing units on the same facility. The second incident involved six inmates and required the use of less-than-lethal direct impact rounds to gain compliance with officers’ orders and stop the attack.

Five inmates were transported to local area hospitals for treatment of injuries they sustained during these incidents. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening. No staff members were injured.

KVSP Investigative Services Unit is investigating these events.

KVSP opened in 2005 and houses 3,725 minimum-, medium-, maximum- and high-security custody inmates. KVSP offers academic classes and vocational programs and employs approximately 1,800 people. For more information, visit

Feb. 7, 2017   

CONTACT: Lt. Michael Betzinger (661) 721-6314