San Bernardino County opposes transfer of death row inmates – NBC Los Angeles

San Bernardino County communities asked the state of California to stop transferring prison inmates who were incarcerated for dangerous crimes to a state prison located in Chino, largely due to the insufficient security that they say cannot guarantee safety for their residents.

Elected officials from Chino, Chino Hills joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to demand the suspension of the transfer of inmates, including those on death row, to the California Institution for Men.(CIM)

Chino Major Eunice Ulloa said in a news conference Tuesday that she is “outraged” that 39 prisoners have been transferred from San Quentin to Chino’s prison, which she said is “in dire need of repair.” 

“CIM has a history of escapes, with the most recent one being in 2018,” Ulloa said. “Let us not forget about the Kevin Cooper escape and brutal murders, which is a scar on our community’s heart that we all still feel decades later.”

Kevin Cooper was convicted for murdering four people in Chino Hills in 1983. Investigators said Cooper stabbed the family of four and their house guest more than 140 times with an ice pick, knife and hatchet.

The neighboring community of Chino Hills was also fearful that the state and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “continue to ignore the failing public safety and security systems within” the prison in Chino, according to Chino Hills Mayor Cynthia Moran.

“We stand united with the City of Chino and our outrage over these inmate transfers and our commitment to prioritizing the safety and well-being of all of our Chino Valley residents,” said Moran, who claimed local officials were made aware of the transfers of inmates over two months after they initially began.

Chino Police Chief Kevin Mensen added a voice of concern, saying the Chino facility is in “poor condition,” not equipped to house more than 1000 life-without-parole inmates.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Mensen said. “ There are currently 39 inmates on death row at CIM right now, but the possibility of many more to come.”

Mensen also said if an inmate manages to escape, like an incident in January 2018, it would “deplete” all resources from the Chino Police Department and neighboring agencies.

“The inmate was able to move freely about the prison complex due to lack of security, technology, staffing, and lighting,” Mensen said about the inmate who escaped the Chino prison in 2018. “It was also found that a shaker wire that would have alerted guards to the inmate climbing the fence had been defective for nearly three years.”

In response to the outcry, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said it’s complying with the voter-approved Proposition 66, which requires the department to phase out its death row units at San Quentin.

“These transfers enable death-sentenced people to participate in work programs to pay court-ordered restitution to their victims,” the CDCR said in a statement. “Transfers do NOT change an incarcerated person’s condemned sentence.”

The state agency also tried to address the San Bernardino County communities’ concerns over safety, saying all prisons, including the one in Chino, have “a secure and fortified facility perimeter with a lethal electrified fence.”

The CDCR said it’s upgraded security systems at CIM as well as other state prisons to prevent any inmates from escaping the facilities.

“CDCR can assure the public that these individuals will never be housed in the area of the facility that previously experienced a walkaway — which previously happened in a different area of the prison, in a lower security level area, WITHOUT a lethal electrified fence.”

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