United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) - Norco
JoAnn Gordon, Warden
5th Street & Western
Norco, CA 92860
P.O. Box 1841
Norco, CA 92860-0991
Inland prison warden retiring
11:49 PM PST on Saturday, November 6, 2004
Jo Ann Gordon, retiring warden of
California Rehabilitation Center,
helped shape the nation's largest
By PAIGE AUSTIN / The Press-Enterprise
While history and movie theaters are filled with fantastic tales of prison breaks, there exists a rare category of prison break-ins.
Jo Ann Gordon's tale is one about a stubborn battle to break into the male-dominated ranks of prison guards. She battled her way inside prison walls and up through the ranks of the California Department of Corrections in an era when female prison guards faced discrimination on top of the dangers inherent to the job.
This week, Gordon, 56, will officially retire as the warden at Norco's California Rehabilitation Center and one of the most senior wardens in the state.
Friday, old friends and ranking prison officials throughout the state will gather to celebrate Gordon's 30 years of often groundbreaking work in California prisons.
"Without her in the department, there is going to be a big void," said David Tristan, retired chief deputy director of the California Department of Corrections. "She was a pioneer for women in corrections working in men's institutions, and she's also been a staunch advocate for drug- and alcohol-treatment programs for both men and women."
As warden at the California Rehabilitation Center, a 6,064-inmate medium security prison housing men and women, Gordon helped shape the facility into the nation's largest substance-abuse program. Under her leadership, the prison's substance-abuse treatment program grew from 88 beds to 1,626.
Never an Easy Career
However, her ascension through the ranks of the corrections system didn't come easily.
When Gordon, a native of Watts, first applied in the early 1970s to work as a prison guard, she was told not to bother. The department, its recruiters and other guards openly doubted a woman's ability to handle the state's most violent inmates, including men convicted of rape and murder.
But Gordon, a single working mother with a stubborn streak, wasn't about to let anyone tell her what she can and can't do.
"I remember that it was a Saturday in May - there are certain moments in your life that you never forget - and I was at Chino High School testing to become a corrections officer," said Gordon. "They singled out the women in the room and said, 'You can take the test, but you will not get the job.' Well, that made me mad."
She applied three times until she was finally hired at the California Rehabilitation Center, the same place she would wind up at the end of a long career that included work at the California Institute for Men, the California Institute for Women and department headquarters.
Though rewarding, hers was never an easy career. Gordon battled discrimination, sexism and danger to become a pioneer among female correctional officers.
"I don't remember what happened that first day, but I know I was scared," said Gordon. "I didn't know what I had gotten myself into."
In many ways, it was an uphill battle for her, said Tristan.
"She faced a lot of resistance. She faced a lot of ridicule," he said. "There were a lot of people counting on her to fail."
Even as Gordon made inroads with her coworkers, she still faced threats from inmates.
Years ago, when she worked as a corrections officer in a prison for men, a black inmate raped a white nurse at the prison. In retaliation, inmates involved in a white-power gang pledged to attack Gordon because she was the prison's highest-ranking black female officer, she said.
"The lieutenant pulled me into his office to tell me I couldn't go into the yard because of the threat," she said. "I was very hot about it at the time. There was no way I was going to let inmates tell me where I can work."
Despite the challenges of breaking into a traditionally male-dominated field and the critics that dogged her, Gordon was appointed warden seven years ago at the Norco facility.
A social worker at heart, it was Norco's substance-abuse program that gave Gordon her chance to shine.
"She treated inmates with professionalism and compassion before it was in vogue, and she advocated treatment programs before treatment was in vogue," said Tristan. "She had a huge impact on (the California Rehabilitation Center's) treatment program."
In recent years, the job has had its share of trials. Gordon faced and was cleared of accusations of discrimination. She lost a $100,000 lawsuit involving the wrongful termination of a former employee who said he was fired for reporting wrongdoings within the prison. That case is on appeal.
During last year's budget crisis, the state threatened to close down the prison
Eligible for full retirement more than a year ago, Gordon stayed on at the prison in the wake of the threat of closure to convince state officials that the Norco prison is one of the best in the state with a low 18 percent recidivism rate among inmates who complete the substance-abuse program.
"She's been working for the last year essentially without pay (beyond her employment salary)," said California Rehabilitation Center Lt. Tim Shirlock. "She stayed on to fight for the prison and the staff. We all love her. There are so many people she has influenced."
The state has rescinded plans to close the prison, allowing Gordon to retire without having to worry about the fate of her staff and the prison. She plans to keep busy publishing a book of inspirational short stories from her experience inside prison walls.
"I am grateful to have had this experience," she said. "It hasn't all been good, but I've learned from all of it, and I wouldn't change it for the world."
Inmates say prison is making them ill
07:56 AM PDT on Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Silvia Flores / The Press-Enterprise
"We came to prison to do time,
not to be contaminated,"
former inmate Tina Perez says.
Released July 4, she is still ill, she says.
By STEFANIE FRITH / The Press-Enterprise
Inmates at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco are placing tube socks over showerheads to filter debris out of the water. Others say they have stopped washing their faces to prevent red rashes. Some refuse to drink the tap water or eat food made in the prison's kitchens.
In the past few months, about 20 inmates have been diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori, a spiral-shaped bacterium that nestles into the lining of the stomach and causes bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and bloody or black stools, said Dr. Sarv Grover, chief medical officer at CRC. The minimum- to medium-security prison has been testing for the bacterium for two years and recently sent a memo to its staff and 4,600 male and female inmates to educate them on the illness, he said. The memo states that to protect themselves from H. pylori, they need to have good personal hygiene, eat food that has been properly prepared and drink water from a safe, clean water source.
If untreated, H. pylori can lead to ulcers and stomach cancers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"My son takes a sock to filter the water before taking a shower," said Cleone Merrill, a Sacramento resident whose 41-year-old son is incarcerated at the prison. "He said the water is so dark, and others are putting socks up now too."
Some inmates, their family members and prison advocates believe the symptoms are caused by contaminated water flowing through the prison's plumbing. Others wonder whether they are the result of unsanitary conditions in the kitchens, bathrooms and dormitories.
Prison officials say they test the water twice weekly and insist it is clean. Grover said the inmates' concerns are exaggerated.
Petitions are circulating among inmates' families to force the prison to take the necessary steps to avoid contamination altogether.
"There are thousands of inmates statewide who are infected with H. pylori," said Judy Greenspan, a representative of California Prison Focus, an advocacy group for inmates. Greenspan specializes in health issues for the organization and tours prisons on a regular basis.
"I think it's coming from the prison kitchens, and the cells are dirty," she said. "The conditions they live in are pretty bad."
Grover said much of the alarm comes from a lack of information. "It's like when you sit with a group and someone says they have symptoms of something, then you start to think you have symptoms of that too."
Former inmate Tina Perez, who was released from CRC on July 4 after serving about one year for child endangerment, said she began showing signs of H. pylori about four months into her incarceration. The 38-year-old woman has not been tested but plans to be in the next few weeks, she said.
Perez, who has been staying with friends and family in Buena Park and Diamond Bar, said she gets sharp, shooting pains in her stomach and has soft bowel movements.
"We came to prison to do time, not to be contaminated," she said.
Grover said he figures those inmates who do have the bacterium were
infected in childhood, when they didn't wash their hands. He added that
many inmates come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and never received
proper medical care as children.
A year ago, the prison was hooked up to the city of Norco's water system. Grover said that since that time, he had not seen an increase in the number of inmate patients coming to him with symptoms of H. pylori.
There might still be some discoloration, but the prison's water is "germ-free," he said.
The prison's water is tested twice a week and continues to come back negative for H. pylori, said Lt. Tim Shirlock, prison spokesman. The water is also treated with chlorine to keep the pipes free of germs.
"They think, 'Oh, it's bad because it's discolored,' " said Grover. "But they are not getting sicker because of this water. The water is clean."
On a recent tour of the prison, water in administrative offices, men's and women's dorms and inmate kitchens ran cloudy and fizzy when first dispensed, but it became clear after settling inside a plastic bottle.
Many of the restrooms in the men's dormitory were corroding, missing tiles and had holes in the walls and floors. There was mildew on the walls. Some pipes were exposed and rusty, and others were covered with green deposits. The air was musty and humid.
The water in the women's restrooms was also full of bubbles when it came out of the taps and showerheads and smelled of chlorine.
The facility was built in 1928 as the Lake Norconian Club, a luxury hotel. It later became a military hospital and was converted into a prison in 1962. Last year, the state prison began a $50 million dorm-replacement project, but budget cuts and talk of closing the institution halted the construction.
Barbara Cole, director of disease control for the Riverside County Department of Public Health, said her office has received a few complaints about the water at the prison.
"We are aware there are concerns," Cole said. County officials, however, are unable to do anything about health concerns at the prison unless prison officials invite them in to do testing or they are bombarded with complaints, she added.
Inmate Jesus Velez, a convicted armed robber, said many inmates, upon incarceration at CRC, develop allergies, rashes, insect and spider bites and weakened immune systems. The crowded conditions make sanitation difficult, he said.
"Inmates don't have a choice of where they get to go to prison," said
Lillian Fossa, Perez's aunt. "Yes, you have to lock them up. But you shouldn't
be releasing them with a ... disease."
Prisoners blame sickness on water, officials insist water's fine
NORCO, Calif. - Prisoners diagnosed with a bacterium that causes ulcers and cancer blame California Rehabilitation Center water for making them ill and some inmates are now putting socks over shower heads to filter debris and refusing to wash to prevent rashes.
In recent months, about 20 inmates have been diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that nestles into the lining of the stomach and causes bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and bloody stools, prison Dr. Sarv Grover said.
Prison officials insist the water, tested twice a week, is clean and Grover claims the inmates are exaggerating.
The minimum- to medium-security prison has been testing for the bacterium for two years and recently sent a memorandum to its staff and 4,600 male and female inmates to educate them on the illness, he said.
To protect themselves from H. pylori, they need to have good personal hygiene, eat food that has been properly prepared and drink water from a safe, clean water source, the memo stated.
"We came to prison to do time, not to be contaminated," said former inmate Tina Perez, adding she's still ill since her release a month ago.
"My son takes a sock to filter the water before taking a shower," said Cleone Merrill, a Sacramento resident whose 41-year-old son is imprisoned at the Riverside County prison 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
"He said the water is so dark, and others are putting socks up now, too," Merrill said.
Some inmates, family members and others believe contaminated water is flowing through the prison's plumbing. Others fear unsanitary conditions in the kitchens, bathrooms and dormitories are to blame.
"There are thousands of inmates statewide who are infected with H. pylori," said Judy Greenspan of California Prison Focus, an advocacy group for inmates. She specializes in health issues and regularly visits prisons.
"I think it's coming from the prison kitchens, and the cells are dirty," she said. "The conditions they live in are pretty bad."
Grover said he believes inmates with the bacterium were infected in childhood.
Studies have shown that Helicobacter pylori can cause gastritis, stomach ulcers and has been associated with stomach cancer. Scientists believe as many as half the people in the world are infected.
The prison once relied on well water that, when combined with the institution's aging plumbing, had a brown color but tested negative for H. pylori. A year ago, the prison was hooked up to the city of Norco's water system.
Lt. Tim Shirlock, spokesman for the prison, said prison water is tested twice a week and continues to come back negative for H. pylori. The water is also treated with chlorine to keep the pipes free of germs.
"They think, 'Oh, it's bad because it's discolored,'" Grover said. "But they are not getting sicker because of this water. The water is clean."
Information from: The Press-Enterprise, http://www.pe.com
Diagnosis of H Pylori
|The family members report medical diagnosis of H Pylori which the prison
is refusing to treat. H Pylori is everywhere inside and outside of
prison and is the bug that causes ulcers. It is typically
found in water and ingested in food.
It requires that TWO antibiotics be administered for a two week period.
I have been told by these families that there is another health risk located across the street where there is a lake of standing water swarming with mosquitos. Fontana is the area where the West Nile Virus epidemic is already in progress.
A call to the Center for Disease Control was made and the officials
there have stated that they are fully aware that the West Nile Virus exists
in the town of Norco via the testing procedures that they
Yet nobody has any jurisdiction over this or any other prison! Not even the health department.
Dead birds are reported on the property and the inmates are sitting
ducks. There are no screens on the cells. The inmates are not
given lemon soap or lemon slices to rub on their skin, nor is
The inmates have been told that if they complain to anyone about the h pylori outbreak and refusal to treat that their "lives will be made a living hell" by Mrs. Cole, one of the prison administrators who has set herself up to be a tin god apparently.
Having h-pylori is a living hell in itself and there's no excuse for
it when antibiotics are so readily available. And West Nile
Virus is serious and we need to let Mrs. Cole know she is fully in the
She has apparently already caused the sentence of an inmate who spoke out to be extended for four years to intimidate everyone. Mrs. Cole is the administrator in charge of giving the releases to prisoners who have fully served their sentences. She refuses to process certain prisoners and without good cause. Needing medical care is an unacceptable excuse for punishment.
Other guards and counselors are also reported to be threatening inmates who ask for help.
One reliable source tells me that the inmates put socks over the showerheads to filter the water because it comes out so black.
This is the water that they are forced to drink.
Maybe if a guard or administrator gets a fatal mosquito bite, something will be done about spraying the lake across the street.
As you know these cell temperatures are exceeding 90 degrees, dangerous for those on certain medications that change the way the body handles heat and puts them all in danger of heat stroke.
Doctor Cole needs to be called on intimidation and denial of medical
care to prisoners
The Warden needs to be called and informed that a number of guards and counselors are threatening inmates who complain or speak out about needing medical care or about abuses.
JoAnn Gordon, Warden
P.O. Box 1841
And the Governor needs to be called about this problem, the excessive
heat temperatures and disease conditions at all prisons and anything else
on your mind. When everyone calls in he can see that families of prisoners
are intelligent to organize a voting group capable of picketing.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
FAX: (916) 445-4633
Why Californians should care that inmates are treated for H Pylori
1) It indicates unsanitary conditions for food and water of the inmates.
What is a Helicobacter Pylori?Helicobacter pylori, (pronounced HELI-co-back-ter pie-Lorrie) also called H. pylori is a spiral shaped bacterium. It lives in the stomach and duodenum.
The duodenum is the section of intestine just below stomach. Helicobacter pylori has a unique way of adapting in the harsh environment of the stomach. It protects itself by covering itself with the mucus of the stomach.
Once it is covered with mucus, it is able to fight the stomach acid that does reach it with an enzyme it possesses called urease.Because of its spiral shape and the way it moves, H. pylori can penetrate the protective lining of the stomach.
When it penetrates the stomach, excess acid can irritate the stomach and duodenum (pronounced Doo-o-DEE-num) eventually causing an ulcer. When an ulcer has healed, it is likely to come back within a year. When H. pylori is completely eliminated from the digestive tract, the chances that the ulcer will return are greatly reduced.
How do people become infected with H. pylori?
H. pylori can be spread through contaminated food or water.What illnesses besides ulcers does H. pylori cause?
H. pylori can cause chronic and severe inflammation of the stomach, wasting away of the stomach's mucous layer. People with H. pylori are morel likely to develop gastric cancer than people who are not affected with H. pylori.
What can you do to prevent H. pylori infection? The source of H. pylori
is not yet known. However, it is always wise for persons to wash hands
thoroughly, to eat food that has been properly prepared, and to drink water
from a safe, clean source. These methods may help you from getting a H.
For more information about Helicobacter Pylori, visit The "Helicobacter Foundation".--------FDA approved treatment options for H. Pylori
H Pylori is everywhere. The symptoms are miserable with heartburn,
gas, dying rear, strong reaction to certain foods and only antibiotics
can kill this bug. You feel terrible all the time and
A simple blood test identifies it. Some of the inmates have tested positive for it at Norco. So where's the treatment?
Your calls to inquire about this situation will save lives.
At CIW Dr. Long is in charge. The water at CIW has been known for years
to contain Coloform, a bacteria from animal waste.They drink bottled water
but do shower and bath in this water.Lisa had a rash for weeks after she
arrived but that has gone away now. No doubt many other prisons such as
VSPW have the same problem being surrounded by farmland and animals. Frank
This is the boss over Dr. Cole, that tin god at CRC Norco holding up releases. Let's add this number to our people to complain to about what she is doing or the dysfunction of ANY mental health doctor in the system. Let's complain to their bosses and everybody else allowing these terrible conditions Complaints are necessary.
My Mother was able to visit Norco and brought back some information regarding the neglect the inmates at Norco are enduring.
Here are a few names of inmates suffering from H-Pyori are so far as follows
There are many many more but there were only spare
minutes to get that information without being overheard as the guards were
paying more attention than usual.
The names of guards that are threatening the inmates are as follows;
Lt. Holt, Officer P. Clark, Officer Dodson and CCl Spigner.
The psychiatrist on site, Dr. Cole, receives recommendations for prescriptions from the psychologist and there is now a power trip going on between the two regarding who has the bigger degree so the Psychiatrist refuses all recommendations that the psychologist gives.
There is a class action 602 with 200 inmate signatures sitting on the desk of Captain Johnston being ignored regarding the H-Pyori outbreak
The Dr's and medical staff that are refusing to treat inmates are as follows;
Dr. Cole (As we already know.) "Also has power to extend sentences and make recommendations"
My loved one is very sick has put in request after
request to be rechecked for the H-Pyori symptoms that are getting
worse and since has being diagnosed positive for the disease they have
refused the requests to be seen altogether.
Three people had made a 602 complaint about guards conduct and those three inmates are being retained where the rest of the group has already been released.
This information can be confirmed by contacting: xxxxxxxxxxx
One officer has approached female inmates in a sexual manner on many occasions yet the inmates are afraid to speak out as they have already seen what happens when complaints are made. There is more to be said about this particular officer but because the things he has done can be pinpointed to one inmate. She refuses details at this time out of fear.
The water in the vistors area is clear yet the inmates water is black and there is no way to get that water to have it tested, however, My Mother did get a sample of the visitor water to test just to be sure it is not also contaminated.
The food that the prison lists on the inmates weekly menu is not what is actually served. The inmates are served what is supposed to be chicken (the inmates call it mystery meat.) five times per week without fail.
We are making every effort to get the families of
the stricken inmates to contact you and/or Stefan Frith of the Riverside
Press Enterprise realizing the lives depend on getting this crisis out
The people whose loved ones are at other prisons are making a big difference in the lives of those at Norco and we will return the favor by participating in future calls to action.
Norco Family Member
Dear Family Member:
There are no rescuers except ourselves through the power badger evil people such as Dr. Cole whose ego is obviously more important than the justice, to file lawsuits, do protests and recall the bums responsible for allowing all this inhumanity.
The 602 process is a huge joke. At most prisons these are simply thrown in the trash with no action taken except that which would favor the guards. We file 602's for the purpose of future lawsuits and to create a paper trail only.
I have called the Warden - no response yet but she clearly has the message.
I suggest you write a letter to her and ask the Press Enterprise to publish
it so that the entire community is alert of the
We must not be silent in this situation. Silence is deadly and it empowers the administrators and guards with our permission to torture and murder by medical neglect with no consequences. Taking no action is an action.
We will resume our Call to Action tomorrow. As of Friday, no one was answering the phones at the prison. Let's all call OSHA, Dr. Cole's Boss Tim Fishbach, the Federal Center for Disease Control and raise hell tomorrow when offices are open.
The families of Norco can certainly help to do that work even if they use their maiden names. Diease epidemics and filthy conditions exist at every prison because we allow it with our silence.
As West Nile Virus travels up the the State, we will see all the inmates endangered as CDC cannot do one thing right. Whatever we achieve by sounding the alarm at Norco will set the standard for how this danger will be handled elsewhere.
I hope to see all the Norco families at the RALLY, standing up for prisoners. All for one, one for all in the UNION. Without you, this news story wouldn't be possible and the inmates would just be left to suffer in silence. Horrible situation that the humanitarian citizens of the UNION must not allow to exist.
July 26, 2004
Just got back from Norco
New news. The prison has hired people to clean up the grounds. So that there are no dead birds laying anywhere. Which is a good thing. They are cleaning up EVERYTHING!
I am not sure if Stefanie Frith was the reporter on site on Tuesday at 9:42 am in unit 404 with the Hoover Commision but they did a surprise inspection and they missed everything important due to the fact that the prison knew about the "Surprise".
All of the inmates were told in advance to "stay quiet or else!" As a matter of fact if it was Stefanie tell her that the woman she asked "What was that?" to in 404 adjacent to the bathroom/showers got into a lot of trouble for speaking up about the water on her floor puddling in her cell every morning and commenting about the walls deteriorating.
Most all of the sick inmates are being shipped out to other facilities in California.
Promises had been made by the counselors the day that the reporter and Hoover Commission were there promising that all of the inmates who need to see the Dr. will be seen within 24 hours. This has not happened!
The mail room at the prison is sending mail back to sender's saying person no longer there and the prisoner's are not getting their mail because of this.
Catherine Sprigner has been causing hold up's in releases for inmates in unit 404 at will when inmates file 602's. Guards protect guards.
Female Officer P. Clark who works in unit 404 physically assaults the inmates causing injuries and does not have to answer for her actions. Officer P. Clark has worked at the prison for a very long time and does as she pleases.
An Inmate named XXXXXXXXXX (journalists write me for this name) witnessed an assault on an inmate by P. Clark and the assault was videotaped. The assaulted inmate was immediately shipped out after the assault.
Officer Nace, Officer Lopez and all other male guards are sexually harrassing the female inmates and nothing has been done to stop it.
Family of Norco Inmate