Confidential prisoner records found discarded in dumpster

October 20, 2010


A box of California Men’s Colony (CMC) prisoner files, containing private information such as psychological evaluations and social security numbers, was found in a dumpster at the Shell gas station on Madonna Road near Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo last week.

Government agencies and attorneys working on behalf of inmates are required by privacy laws to properly dispose of protected information. Prison employees shred the documents both horizontally and vertically at CMC before they dispose of records protected by the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Act provides for both civil and criminal penalties that include the leveling of fines and misdemeanor charges.

Last week, a homeless couple was searching for recyclables in a trash bin at the Shell gas station on Madonna Road near Highway 101 when they came across a box of Board of Prison Term files. The files contained the inmates’ past criminal history, psychological evaluations, social security numbers, reports about their behavior in prison and reports regarding their relationships with their families.

Each of the eight files describe an inmate who had been found guilty of murder. Some of the men have been paroled, others had their requests for release denied and one is waiting to have his case heard for the first time later this year.

After discovering the files had been dumped in a trash bin, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation mounted an investigation that determined the files had been given to San Luis Obispo based attorney Peter Ferguson. The local attorney had represented each of the inmate’s attempts to get paroled through the California Board of Prison Terms.

The private attorney said he thought his wife was responsible for putting the documents in the dumpster.

“I think my wife was cleaning out the car and she threw them out,” Ferguson said.

Government codes and the California State Bar require attorneys to protect their client’s privacy and properly dispose of documents.

“It is the duty of an attorney to maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client,” according to California Business and Professional Code 6068(e).



  1. oto says:

    Once these records are found within the public domain, they are legally public records, aren’t they? So, now would be a good time to see if the Parole Board and the California Dept. of Corrections is doing its job. Where are these now publicly and leglly available records viewable? Why didn’t Cal Coast News publish them? I would like to view them to see whether they conform to the standards and requirements of state and federal laws governing parole boards and state corrections departments, including the board of the California Prisons.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Paperboys says:

    FYI — It was just a month or two ago that the County Supervisors approved changing the ”correctional officers” status to ”correctional deputies” which I’ve been told my someone high up in the department has a lot of connotations to it.
    First, to be a true ”deputy” requires going through the full police academy (6 months?) and correctional officers have a 6 week academy.
    In order for the COs at County Jail to become full fledged law enforcement officers it would cost about $10 million for retraining and hiring a bunch more people to cover the shifts while they all go through the academy a handful at a time.
    There is also a difference in the retirement benefits because law enforcement officers (deputies) can retire at 50 and the CO’s were at 55. Also, full fledged cops get 3% of their highest annual pay multiplied by the number of years on the job. So as a correctional deputy the COs at the County Jail could see a boost in their retirement benes, and be able to cash out sooner. Not a bad boost with the stroke of a Supervisor’s pen.
    But that’s only at the County level.
    CMC’s correctional officers are full fledged law enforcement/cops just like city police officers, game wardens, state park rangers, state marshals, CHP and sheriff’s deputies, meaning they have the authority to make arrests anywhere in the state any time. They can also be called up to help restore order in disasters such as earthquakes, or riots because they ARE police officers. When the Poly Royal riots happened, CMC guards assisted in restoring order.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  3. Cindy says:

    There is some rather odd behavior going on with the Sheriffs Dept and the CMC that they (the Deputy Sheriffs) run. After reading the New Times today about the guy they murdered and the family and little girl that they harassed beyond all reason I am stunned. There are some people in that department that are very dangerous. Who knows what was really behind those files ending up in a trash bin?
    We need a citizens review board, we need drug testing, need needed it years ago and it can’t wait any longer. I am all for disbanding that dept and bringing in a private agency to run it if that’s what it takes to get them under control. They are SCARY, they are DANGEROUS, they are OUT OF CONTROL.

    (-4) 14 Total Votes - 5 up - 9 down
    • Cindy says:

      I should add that , I’m not so certain that any one man can clean that department up. I’ve seen their attitudes such as, “so what we can’t get fired anyway” and ” If we don’t like Cortez we won’t cooperate.”
      Also if you read the RECALL HEDGES website, you will get a lot of disturbing information including that some of the Deputies were afraid that they might be murdered by other Deputies and it was reported to HR. The actual reports are on that website.
      I also know the answer to the question of how these guy’s can pass their polygraph tests when they get hired. The fact is that sociopaths and individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can lie with no guilt. They pass those tests easily. We need to get those people out of there, every one of them.

      (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
    • BTJustice says:

      Cindy, the Sheriff’s Department (county) does not run CMC (state). CMC si part of the California Department of Corrections.

      (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
      • Cindy says:

        Thanks for the correction on that. I had that impression because the CO’s seemed very entrenched with the local Deputies Union (when they split) and it appeared that they were operating under similar employment agreements rather than one being State Employed and one being County Employed. I would have thought that they would have had separate unions all along? Are the guards at the jail also considered CO’s or are they considered Deputies?

        (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
        • danika says:

          They are COs.

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
          • knowtheFACTS says:

            common people do your research. They are Correctional Deputies now.

            (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
            • danika says:

              My family member refers to herself as a Correctional Officer, or C.O., not a Correctional Deputy. Perhaps she didn’t get the memo. She is equally common people…

              (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
              • knowtheFACTS says:

                Yeah ask her again. She might not have gotten the memo. My sources tell me its a big deal down there, with this new title comes more responsibilities and work. Plus, the title change was probably a ploy to get more money….We all know how those Unions are.

                (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
                • Cindy says:

                  Either way, this started with my mention of a “heavy hitting article” the NT wrote about our local SLOSD, their NTF and their egregious abuse of power. I am appalled (literally) and concerned that the actions of that department hasn’t become more of an issue with our local Citizen’s.
                  Somebody (like the victims) should bring civil charges against those SOB’s. A jury will hang that Dept out to dry, I know I would.

                  (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
                • knowtheFACTS says:

                  Just to keep you informed SLO County NTF isn’t only compiled of employees from the SLOSD. All local agencies have at least one or more officers assigned to NTF

                  (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  4. Booty JuJu says:

    Medical experimentation for the lot of them, then send in the predator drones.

    (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down

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