March 6, 1998
Letters to the Editor
P.O. Box 15779
Sacramento, CA 95852-0779
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.
C. A. TERHUNE
Department of Corrections