Report predicted violence at Chino prison dorm hit by race riots
Corrections experts warned nearly two years ago that overcrowding at the California Institute for Men at Chino created “a serious disturbance waiting to happen,” foreshadowing the violence that burned a dormitory and injured 175 prisoners over the weekend.
The Chino prison, which houses 5,900 inmates, nearly twice its designed capacity, remained on lockdown Monday and visits were suspended at nine other state prisons from which officers were drawn to help quell the Chino riot Saturday night. Those officers were also helping relocate about 1,000 inmates displaced by the destruction.
The disturbance, reportedly sparked by racial tensions between Latino and black inmates, appeared likely to deal a setback to efforts by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to desegregate the teeming “reception centers” in the state’s 33-prison network that house incoming prisoners and probation violators.
A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision rejected California’s practice of segregating the reception centers by race as a means of combating violence among gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia and the Black Guerrilla Family.
The high court’s decision in a case brought by imprisoned murder convict Garrison Johnson led to a negotiated settlement in which corrections officials agreed to stop using race as the sole criteria for assigning bunks in the reception centers.
The reception centers are supposed to house inmates for their first 60 days but are often where a prisoner serves his entire sentence for lack of cell space.
California has 158,000 prisoners in facilities designed for 84,000. A special three-judge federal court last week ordered the state to reduce its prison population by nearly 43,000 over the next two years to bring conditions up to constitutional standards.
The judges’ decision was informed, at least in part, by a report from a former Texas corrections chief now consulting on California prison security, Doyle Wayne Scott, who visited Chino two years ago and witnessed what he considered inadequate staffing and potentially explosive intermingling of maximum-security prisoners with those sentenced to less harsh confinement.
-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles and Nicole Santa Cruz in Chino
Photo: A view from outside the fence after weekend rioting at the California Institute for Men at Chino shows a dorm with a hole burned through its roof and a yard littered with mattresses and other debris. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times