California to look at prison abuse, racism

May 12, 2010 at 6:13 PM

SACRAMENTO, May 12 (UPI) -- California Senate officials say they will investigate and make public findings regarding allegations of abusive and racist treatment of prisoners.

"We are deeply concerned about the allegations of abuse and racist treatment of inmates at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation behavior management units at several institutions covered in the recent Sacramento Bee series," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Public Safety Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, wrote in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday.

"We are even more troubled ... by the accusations that investigations into these allegations were either ignored, or worse, covered up," Steinberg and Leno wrote.

The Bee alleged evidence of cruelty and brutality at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, Calif., including incidents of racial slurs, withholding of medical care and extreme isolation and deprivation at that unit and other similar California prisons.

"Prisons must be managed for the safety of staff and inmates and to rehabilitate offenders," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday. "The (corrections) department has zero tolerance for abuse and we support their vigorous and comprehensive review of the matter."

Corrections researchers urged a formal investigation into alleged abuses which apparently was suppressed.

"There appear to be charges of retaliation against employees who have attempted to bring these issues to light," Steinberg and Leno wrote. "The Senate intends to fully examine these allegations."

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