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Correctional Officer Health and Safety
Some State and County Correctional Facilities Could Better Protect Their Officers From the Health Risks of Certain Inmate Attacks

Report Number: 2018-106

September 18, 2018 2018-106

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report detailing our review of the health and safety of correctional staff who were subject to a particular type of assault at three correctional facilities we visited—the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California Institute for Men (CIM), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Men’s Central Jail (Men’s Central), and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s Santa Rita Jail (Santa Rita). This assault, known as a gassing attack, involves an inmate throwing bodily fluids at correctional staff. These attacks can expose the victim to a communicable disease and cause psychological trauma. Inmates convicted of a gassing attack can receive increases of two to four years to their current sentences. This report concludes that the three correctional facilities we visited should improve their processes to ensure that they provide all available aftercare to victims of gassing attacks, investigate such attacks more quickly and thoroughly, and better prevent and respond to gassing attacks.

The three correctional facilities did not adequately inform victims immediately following the gassing attacks of aftercare services, such as medical and counseling services. Further, these three correctional facilities did not consistently document that they advised victims of their right to request that the inmate who committed the gassing attack be tested for a communicable disease. In fact, CIM and Santa Rita were aware in some cases that inmates were infected with a communicable disease at the time of gassing attacks that occurred in 2017, but they failed to notify the victims of the exposure risk until we made inquiries in August 2018.

Because the three correctional facilities did not consistently investigate gassing attacks in a thorough and timely manner, only 31 percent of gassing attacks at these facilities from 2015 through 2017 resulted in inmate convictions. In fact, district attorneys declined to prosecute four of the 45 cases we reviewed because the three correctional facilities did not collect sufficient physical evidence of the crime—such as the container the inmate used to throw the bodily fluids or the victim’s uniform. Additionally, the three correctional facilities did not refer cases for prosecution in a timely manner: Men’s Central and CIM unnecessarily extended their investigations of gassing attacks and took an average of seven months and three months, respectively, while Santa Rita did not refer all of the cases we reviewed for prosecution. CIM and Santa Rita often did not impose discipline on inmates, such as the loss of privileges or sentence reduction credits, to deter them from committing future gassing attacks. Finally, the three correctional facilities did not provide officers sufficient training about how to respond to gassing attacks.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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