The State Worker

California jail guards would get help with urine-hurling inmates under new bill

Prison and jail workers could get new protections from inmates who hurl bodily fluids at them under a proposal from Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona.

A September audit found three California prisons and jails weren’t doing enough to protect correctional officers from the attacks, often referred to as gassing attacks, which can expose officers to communicable diseases and psychological trauma.

The California Institute for Men in San Bernardino County, the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles and Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County failed to collect enough information to convict many of the people accused of the attacks and didn’t provide enough information to correctional officers about health risks, State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office found.

The Institute for Men and the Santa Rita Jail didn’t even tell some officers until 2018 that they had been exposed to communicable diseases from attacks in 2017, the audit found.

Rodriguez, the chairman of the Public Employment and Retirement Committee, introduced legislation this month that would put recommendations from the audit into state law. Assembly Bill 294 would require jails and prisons to provide better safety training and more information to officers about their rights following an attack, would require facilities to replace soiled uniforms and would strengthen investigations of attacks.

“When these officers and staff are the victims of a gassing attack, they have a right to treatment and information about a communicable disease they may have been exposed to unknowingly,” Rodriguez said in an emailed statement. “No one should be put at unnecessary risk while on the job, sadly these employees have not been afforded that right.”

The three institutions oversaw nearly 10,000 inmates in January 2018, according to the audit. In 2017, 111 gassing attacks occurred at the facilities, according to the audit. Only about 31 percent of attacks from 2015 through 2017 resulted in convictions, according to the audit.

The attacks are considered aggravated battery, and convictions can add two to four years to inmates’ sentences.