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Mule Creek State Prison

BACKGROUND

Mule Creek State Prison On October 23, 1998, the Amador County Grand Jury Law Enforcement Committee toured the Mule Creek State Prison. Warden Susan Hubbard, Calvin Smith and Pat Boyd conducted the tour.

Under California Penal Code, Title 4. Grand Jury Proceedings. Section 919.(b), "The grand jury shall inquire into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county."

Follow-up contact was made on February 19, 1999, when the Law Enforcement Committee met a Mule Creek State Prison to review use of force procedures.

Mule Creek State Prison was opened in June 1987 as one of 33 state prisons. There are 866 acres at the site. Currently, there are 981 employees, making the prison one of Amador County's largest employers.

Originally built to house 1,700 inmates, the facility is currently at 190% of capacity. To accommodate the excess population, one gymnasium that was toured has been converted to a dormitory. As the prison population has increased, bunks for the inmates have been stacked two (2) high. Without additional construction, bunks may have to be stacked three (3) high in the dormitories. Inside day areas currently used for recreation may also have to be converted to bunk space.

The population is divided into "A", "B", and "C" yards inside the electric fence, with a minimum security compound outside the main security fence. There is also an administrative segregation unit used to hold prisoners who for various reasons cannot be housed in the general population.

We inquired about the evacuation of prisoners in case of fire or natural disaster. In this respect, the prison is like a small town. It has a fire department, ambulance service, and back-up power generation systems to keep the facility running smoothly in time of emergency. Locks release automatically in case of uncontrolled fire, allowing evacuation to other secured areas. In case of total disaster, there are plans in place to evacuate the inmates to other facilities in the State.

The use of force to control the population is strictly regulated. According to information gathered during the review, the first response used is pepper spray, but can be escalated to lethal force is required. Individual instances of the use of force are carefully documented, reviewed, and when possible, videotaped. Care is taken to use only the force necessary to maintain the safety of the guards and inmates.

There are some educational and vocational opportunities for inmates. Academic classes are offered, and can enable inmates to earn high school certificates. Currently, there are 434 inmates enrolled in academic courses and 459 inmates in vocational training.

Wages up to 95 cents per hour are offered to prisoners as an incentive to enroll in vocational courses. Taking such courses can also be a way for some prisoners to have time taken off their sentences. College level classes are not offered by Mule Creek State Prison. Mandated law libraries are available for prisoners to use. General use of the law libraries is on a time available basis.

Dispensaries are available to take care of day to day medical, dental and vision needs. There is a central infirmary with ten (10) critical care cells. Inmates needing care that cannot be provided on site are transferred to hospitals in Jackson or Manteca. There is a complete medical staff available including mental health care providers, registered nurses, and medical doctors.

Food preparation is done at the prison central kitchen and dispensed through mess halls. The food is prepared under the supervision of a dietitian. The food preparation facility is inspected on a regular basis for sanitation by Department of Corrections health inspectors. Although the weightlifting program and conjugal visits have been suspended, inmates are allowed television, movies, library access, and the writing and receiving of mail. They are also allowed to have visitors. Visitors are screened as the law allows, but the visitation program introduces contraband into the prison environment.

FINDINGS

  1. Mule Creek State Prison conforms to the standards set by the State of California Department of Corrections.
  2. Overcrowding exists at Mule Creek State Prison as evidenced by a capacity of 190%.
  3. The use of force is strictly regulated.
  4. Educational and vocational opportunities are available within the prison.
  5. Medical facilities, including mental health care, are available to prisoners.
  6. A dietitian supervises food preparation and kitchen facilities are inspected periodically to ensure proper sanitation.

RECOMMENDATIONS

No recommendations are made at this time. No response is required.


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