CDCR fences controversy highlight prison budget cover ups We are never going to know the true cost of the fences, their electronics, card readers, labor contracts, but all those questions should be answered. And I certainly am not wrong in asking the questions.
How much more rent was paid on the California Department of Corrections headquarters in downtown Sacramento because improvements were needed? Did the fence actually cost more than a million dollars since the rent exceeds $5 million per year with these "improvements" built in which cost more money?
Here we have people suffering and dying in prisons, families being broken apart by out-of-state transfers and we're taking the time to talk about two fences built at the California Department of Corrections headquarters. But since the story has mobilized CDCR officials into contacting editors to deny an expense so massive that it probably is beyond measurement, I think that exposing yet another cover-up by this agency who has broken our hearts and our budget is important.
My original column, which appeared on the national news wires and here at American Chronicle, caused highly paid CDCR public relations employees who are never available to help with real emergencies to contact editors:
I simply asked questions about ALL the costs and wasted dollars on fortress-like, ugly fences which close off a large breezeway between two buildings on two streets which brings a prison-like appearance to downtown Sacramento. And for what good reason are these cold steel fences suddenly necessary after years of offices being at this same location? Are CDCr officials afraid of releases of those whom they have abused in prisons? Are they simply doing this to keep out the homeless? Wouldn't the money have better spent on helping the homeless find shelter? Funny how just asking sensible questions of what is done in our names, paid for with our tax dollars can cause such defensiveness.
Anyone with building experience can see that the cost of these gray, metal fortress walls was far more than the $30,000 that CDCr is claiming.
This agency's employees are masters at hiding expenses across several budgets, even if someone were so naive as to believe any reports that they gave, and this instance is no exception. CDCR claimed that the landlord is "paying for the fences" as if this would hide and justify the expenditure. The Landlord might be paying for them through a tenant improvements specification in the lease but I have yet to see any evidence of this. But the tenant pays EXTRA RENT. You pay one rent for a building as-is, considerably more if you require alterations.
The taxpayers ARE paying for the improvements. The landlord is NOT just a nice guy tossing the State a freebie. Regardless of how the deal actually worked, their landlord is still paid with our tax dollars. A half million a month at this one location is an outrageous amount of rent. No telling how many "deals" and "kick-backs" are taking place there.
And CDCR plans to do more "re-decorating" than just building these two eyesore fences, such as remodeling offices, buying new furniture and more. Who knows how many locations they have outside of Sacramento where they are planning to spend more of our taxpayer dollars.
I believe that the fence expenditures are a statement to everyone that CDCR employees are above the law and can do whatever they want whether anyone likes it or not, even when our state is broke.
I made no absolute statements in my op-ed as to the cost of the fence, because it is so immense that no one could trace it due to the unbearable incompetence and routine records manipulations of the horribly mismanaged agency. CDCR employees are never going to track labor costs like that, let alone give honest figures to journalists. We veteran scribes know that their dealings are secret and not to be believed. The media is so restricted in California prisons that we have a difficult time finding out about disease outbreaks, riots, prisoner deaths and more, which is why I do a daily newsletter to keep communications flowing.
I have personally witnessed how CDCR does business. Many highly paid employees are often called to meeting after meeting to discuss the most inane issues while ignoring those that are important.
No telling how many of these meetings were held over the two fences and for how long. The landlord certainly didn't pay for that labor and all the attendant costs.
There are still many questions left unanswered which I believe the public has a right to know. Here are a few:
How much more rent was paid on the headquarters because improvements were needed?
Did the fence actually cost more than a million dollars since the rent exceeds $5 million per year with these "improvements" built in which cost more money
Who ordered the fences and gates?
Who ran the project to request the security system?
What was the reason for installing the fence, the gates and the security system?
What is involved in the security system?
How long did the project discussions take?
How many meetings were there?
How many people were involved?
Were other State departments involved?
How was the design decided on?
__ Regarding the human part of the security system: __
Who will run the security part of the system? - CDCR staff, another department, contractors?
Who will maintain it? - CDCR staff, another department, contractors?
How many people are involved in this security operation?
Will a new section be created? Where will it be located? What is the cost?
Who will handle administration for the staff - pays, paperwork, leave?
How will the system handle staff vacation and sick time?
What employee training is needed? What is the cost?
What was the actual cost of the hardware?
What was the cost to install the fence and gates?
What was the cost to install the electronics?
Will employees need access cards or badges?
Are these existing or are new ones needed?
How many will be issued? What is the cost?
If not, how will security be maintained?
What is the effort, labor cost and the time needed to change employee access cards?
Is there an alarm system?
Was City, County or local police license or approval needed for the fence, the gates, the alarm?
Was a rezoning permit needed for closing the breezeway?
What was the cost of that?
Who applied for those documents?
Who designed the system and drew the plans? What was the cost of that?
What electronics are involved? What is the cost? Who is paying for that?
Are there card readers? Is there a central card controller? What is the cost? Who is paying for that?
How many cameras will there be? What is the cost?
Is there cabling or is it wireless? What is the cost? Who is paying for that?
How are records maintained and for how long? What is the estimated cost?
Have the electronics all been installed?
What else is still to be installed?
__ Regarding Hardware Maintenance __
Who is handling system maintenance?
How many people are involved in maintenance?
What allocation has been made for spare parts?
Where will parts be stored?
__If staff are to have new cards__
Who handles creating the cards?
How are new staff given cards?
What are the procedures for someone without a card?
- unfamiliar employees, city or state employees, visitors
How do visitors get into the buildings or breezeway?
How do CDC Employees from other areas access the buildings?
How do building maintenance staff access the buildings and breezeway?
Are there emergency procedures in case of fire or other hazard requiring fast egress?
How do emergency services access the breezeway in case of emergency?
Have these and other plans been approved by the fire marshal?
I suspect that many of the homeless in the neighborhood were created by CDCr due to practices that break so many people in mind, body and spirit in the cruel and filthy prisons. The homeless are often former prisoners, veterans, young people who can't afford housing due to a few missed paychecks, elderly who have no affordable housing as well as mentally and medically ill people. My opinion piece simply pointed out that these expenditures would have been more wisely spent on a homeless shelter. Whatever the total costs actually are for the steel fences, it's way too much.
Why not stack the CDCr employees in office space the same way that they do to the prisoners whose bondage pays their salaries. Now fair is fair. They have them living three bunks high at many prisons throughout the state so that the people who sit in these offices all day can have an over-paying job.
We are never going to know the true cost of the fences, their electronics, card readers, labor contracts, but all those questions should be answered. And I certainly am not wrong in asking the questions.
CDCR is claiming that the fence is only 7' high, the original video shows that it towers high above the entrance doors to the building. Why are they disseminating such easily provable lies?
Here is the original You Tube video that sparked the controversy.
B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.