California prisons halted a potentially sweeping review of employee safety spurred by a guard’s stabbing death last year, reports the Associated Press. Just seven of 41 expected evaluations were completed before the first-in-the-nation program was abruptly ended after Corrections Secretary Roderick Hickman resigned in February. The prison system’s new administration is trying to counter criticism from state lawmakers and federal judges who have complained that inmates often live in crowded and poorly staffed prisons and receive inadequate care.
In the evaluations that were done, reviewers found that inmates at one facility broke $40,000 worth of windows and set 130 fires in nine months last year as they awaited transfer to other prisons. Guards at another prison shared radios, personal alarms, batons, and pepper spray, and had to walk unprotected past inmates to hand off the equipment during shift changes. Both prisons are so crowded that gymnasiums and classrooms were turned into dormitories. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said dangerous crowded conditions exist statewide and urged legislators to approve $6 billion for new prisons and renovations. When lawmakers balked, he ordered that 2,260 inmates be sent to private prisons in other states, transfers that are now under way.