California corrections officials allowed contractors running drug abuse treatment programs in state prisons to go on taxpayer-funded shopping sprees that included purchases of electric guitars, plasma televisions, $26,000 camcorders, and cars, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Even as the prison system faced criticism for overspending its budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, contractors racked up big bills on all kinds of items that seemed to have little to do with helping prisoners kick drug habits.
Interviews and documents show little oversight of substance-abuse treatment programs. A Chronicle investigation, aided by some documents given to the newspaper by a lawmaker who will hold a hearing on the matter today, found a program at one prison that spent $95,127 on items including two guitars, a digital piano, a portable stage, a camcorder, and a digital camera at the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year, when Gov. Gray Davis made emergency cuts to school funding as the state faced a record deficit. Today’s hearing is expected to provide an inside look at drug treatment in California prisons. There is ample evidence to suggest that not all of the money California spends on drug treatment for inmates and parolees is well spent, says the Chronicle.