RESULTS IN BRIEF
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) and the management at Wasco State Prison (Wasco) near Bakersfield have developed many policies and procedures to ensure the safety of Wasco's staff and inmates. However, such policies are essentially useless if not enforced. As several recent incidents demonstrate, Wasco has not followed its own policies that direct management to create an atmosphere of vigilance in which emergency equipment receives sufficient maintenance and staff monitor inmates appropriately. By failing to enforce these policies effectively, Wasco has needlessly endangered both staff and inmates.
Specifically, management at Wasco has not ensured that plant equipment undergoes adequate service and that staff complete high-priority repairs promptly. Because it does not keep its equipment functioning properly, Wasco suffered an electrical failure in April 1999 that caused a total power outage lasting almost seven hours-a problem that Wasco could have prevented had management made certain that staff repaired previously identified flaws in the electrical system. By neglecting priority repairs and scheduled maintenance on critical emergency equipment, Wasco risks the occurrence of significant problems in the future.
In spite of the fact that emergency readiness is a significant part of Wasco's mission, its management has not adequately prepared the prison and its staff for emergency situations that could affect the entire institution. Although Wasco trains staff to handle certain types of emergencies, the power outage revealed that many employees had never received instruction in procedures that they should follow during an emergency of this nature. Moreover, at the time the outage occurred, neither Wasco's management nor the CDC had developed an emergency operations plan which might have aided staff that were overseeing the prison, so employees were instead forced to rely on their own experience. The fact that some of Wasco's emergency supplies were deficient only exacerbated the problems that occurred during the emergency. Furthermore, Wasco's lack of preparedness for the power outage prompts us to question the prison's readiness for infrastructure or equipment malfunctions that might arise from year 2000 (Y2K) problems. We are concerned about the extent and timing of the exercises Wasco intends to use to test the viability of its year 2000 contingency plan.
Finally, even though Wasco's policies and training emphasize the importance of staff remaining constantly alert and vigilant, recent events indicate that staff have become increasingly complacent when supervising inmates. Circumstances also suggest that an absence of managerial oversight or evaluation may be contributing to this lack of vigilance. In particular, staff and management have been lax in protecting confidential information; as a result, inmates recently gained access to documents that listed staff addresses and social security numbers. Without a heightened sense of awareness among prison staff, Wasco has no guarantee that future compromises to security will not occur. Additionally, we question the CDC's policy that allows inmates to use a detailed map of the institution. Although these conditions have not yet caused any serious repercussions, an unnecessarily risky atmosphere will remain until Wasco resolves these problems.
To prepare for the possibility of another emergency, such as the recent power outage, that could affect the entire facility, Wasco should take the following steps:
To prevent future problems concerning the security of confidential information, Wasco needs to take these actions:
Both Wasco State Prison and the California Department of Corrections concurred with our findings and recommendations and are taking corrective actions.