Debris fills the prison yard after a riot at California Institution for Men, in Chino, on  Aug. 11, 2009.
Debris fills the prison yard after a riot at California Institution for Men, in Chino, on Aug. 11, 2009. (File Photo)
View: Letter to Gov. Jerry Brown about CIM security

Mayors of Chino and Chino Hills have expressed alarm over recent security cutbacks at California Institution for Men in Chino.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been considering a reduction in staffing on armed and manned towers as well as on armed perimeter patrols, according to Chino Mayor Dennis Yates and Chino Hills Mayor Art Bennett.

While that action has not been approved by state officials, such measures would place residents at serious risk, the mayors said.

Yates and Bennett signed and sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown voicing their concerns.

"We are very aware of the State's on-going budget problems however; reducing security measures in a prison located within the heart of a densely populated community is unacceptable," the mayors wrote.

" ... any security reductions would be met with great resistance. We will continue to closely monitor this issue."

Public safety remains a high priority for the department, corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said.

"It's of paramount importance to ensure that inmates do not walk away from facilities and we take that very seriously," Callison said.

"We have an obligation to staff our prisons at appropriate levels. If our inmate population has fallen significantly that has to have an effect on staffing. If we didn't reevaluate staffing levels, people would quite rightly be complaining."

A CIM spokesman on Monday confirmed prison officials decided to not reduce tower patrols after considering to do so.

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has reduced corrections officers at state prisons as they decrease inmate numbers as a result of a court order to meet a constitutionally acceptable level of health care.

The prison realignment, which shifts responsibility for housing lower-level inmates from the prisons to local jails, significantly reduced state inmate populations and has lowered corrections officers needed at CIM.

CIM's population in June 2011 was about 6,070 compared to about 5,081 this month.

"Because of realignment, the inmate population in California prisons is falling and has fallen quite considerably since last October," Callison said.

"As the population falls, we do not have the same staffing level need. We are changing staffing levels at prisons, including CIM, and as a public organization, we will continue to make these changes prudently."

In their letter, Yates and Bennett cited the June 1983 escape of CIM prisoner Kevin Cooper, who is on death row for killing four Chino Hills residents.

"We had the whole Kevin Cooper incident and he was an escapee and that tragedy happened way back when, and we obviously don't want any repeats of that," Bennett said.

"Any time they potentially start reducing the staffing, it potentially gives rise to increased attempts at escape."

Reach Neil via email, call him at 909-483-9356, or find him on Twitter @InlandGov.