California

Office of the Inspector General (OIG)

Budget

$41.974 million (Proposed FY 2022-23)

Staffing

Approximately 211 (Proposed FY 2022-23)

  • OIG staff are organized in three offices across the state and are divided into a number of departments, as described in the OIG organizational chart. OIG’s audit, medical inspection, and grievance review teams have all grown in recent years, roughly doubling the staff size.

State Prison Profile

California has 34 state prison facilities subject to OIG oversight and incarcerates approximately 131,000 people in state prisons. The state prison system is run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). 

Authority

California Penal Code Part III, Title 1, Chapter 3, Section 2641, and Title 7, Chapter 8.2 Sections 6125-6141

  • Structure: The OIG is an independent agency. The Inspector General is appointed by the Governor for a 6-year term and can only be removed for good cause. (Title 7, Ch. 8.2, Sec. 6125)
  • Authorized Activities: The OIG can conduct a broad range of activities, including audits; special reviews; monitoring of internal CDCR processes, including its investigative and disciplinary processes and use of force review process; inspections of specific areas of CDCR practice, such as medical care; monitoring of sexual abuse complaints from incarcerated people and complaints of whistleblower retaliation from CDCR employees; and vetting of warden and superintendent candidates prior to their appointment by the Governor. The OIG is also tasked with maintaining a toll-free number to collect complaints about improper activities occurring within CDCR. (Title 1, Ch. 3.2641; Title 7, Ch. 8.2, Sec. 6126; 6126.6; 6128; 6129; 6133; 6141)
  • Information Access: The OIG has broad access to information and documents needed for its monitoring and investigations and is granted access to CDCR “property,” which is interpreted to include facilities. (Title 7, Ch. 8.2, Sec. 6126.5; 6127.3; 6127.4)
  • Privacy: Correspondence between OIG staff and any person seeking OIG assistance is protected from public records requests and discovery. (Title 7, Ch. 8.2, Sec. 6126.3)

Activities

The OIG’s purpose is to increase transparency and accountability within the California prison system. As the largest correctional oversight body in the US, the OIG has the capacity to carry out extensive monitoring and oversight activities of the CDCR, ranging from medical inspections to monitoring of CDCR’s use of force reviews. A full list of OIG activity areas is below. OIG’s focus on monitoring internal CDCR processes means that, proportionally, OIG has less direct contact with incarcerated people than some other oversight bodies. 

  • Use of Force Monitoring: The OIG reviews use of force incidents with CDCR staff.
  • CDCR Employee Discipline Monitoring: OIG evaluates CDCR’s internal investigations into allegations of employee misconduct, and any ensuing disciplinary processes. 
  • Medical Inspections: The OIG periodically reviews the medical care provided in CDCR facilities. 
  • Authorized Special Reviews: The OIG conducts “special reviews” of areas of CDCR policy, practice, or procedure at the request of the Governor, State Assembly, or State Senate.
  • Critical Incident Monitoring: The OIG monitors CDCR’s response to “critical incidents” that occur at CDCR facilities, including riots, unexpected deaths, uses of deadly force, and hunger strikes. 
  • Retaliation Complaint Review: The OIG reviews complaints submitted by CDCR staff alleging whistleblower retaliation for reporting an improper activity. 
  • Warden and Superintendent Vetting: The OIG assess the qualifications of candidates for warden at adult CDCR facilities and superintendent at juvenile facilities. 
  • Sexual Abuse Monitoring: Through the Sexual Abuse Elimination Ombudsperson, OIG receives complaints relating to sexual abuse under the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (SADEA) and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). 
  • Complaint Intake Review: The OIG maintains a complaint intake process to collect concerns from any individual regarding improper CDCR activity, including a toll-free telephone number for incarcerated individuals to communicate with the office and an online reporting form. 
  • Blueprint Monitoring: The OIG monitors progress on reforms identified in CDCR’s 2012 plan (revised in 2016), “The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Court Oversight, and Improve the Prison System,” known as the Blueprint. Specifically, OIG reports on CDCR progress on key goals such as increasing the percentage of incarcerated individuals served by rehabilitative programs. 
  • Staff Grievance Monitoring: The OIG provides contemporaneous oversight of CDCR inquiries and investigations into grievances about staff misconduct filed by incarcerated people. This area of work significantly expanded in 2022, with OIG adding roughly 80 staff positions to increase their review of complaints about CDCR staff misconduct.
  • Audits: The OIG conducts audits to help CDCR improve operations, reduce costs, and identify corrective actions for any issues. Audits can range in focus from the entire CDCR to a specific institution, division, or office. Audit reports are publicly available and serve to increase public accountability. In 2019, OIG gained the ability to proactively choose areas to audit, without direction from the Governor or state Senate.
  • Rehabilitation Oversight: The California Rehabilitation Oversight Board (CROB), which is chaired by the Inspector General, reviews CDCR’s rehabilitation and treatment programs, including educational, mental health, and medical training and treatment. 
  • Site Visits: The OIG aims to have staff visit each CDCR facility at least once a month. However, OIG staff do not necessarily enter the secure perimeter on these visits, and may simply meet with CDCR representatives in administrative buildings.   

Reports

The OIG currently publishes eight types of reports: Annual Reports, Audits/Special Reviews, Blueprint Monitoring Reports, Discipline Monitoring Reports, Medical Inspections, Staff Complaint Monitoring Reports, Sentinel Reports, and Use of Force Monitoring Reports. All of these reports are publicly available here. The non-self-explanatory categories of OIG reports are briefly explained below. 

  • Blueprint Monitoring Reports: Public reviews of CDCR’s progress on California’s Blueprint plan for the future of the state prison system.
  • Sentinel Reports: Used to flag particularly concerning issues or cases where CDCR violated its own policies. 

Organizational History

After a series of allegations of staff misconduct at the California Department of Corrections (the precursor to the CDCR) the state legislature created the OIG in 1994. The OIG was originally established within the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, within CDCR. In 1998, after further complaints of misconduct, the legislature established OIG as an independent agency. The OIG’s responsibilities have been expanded and restricted over the years since its creation, with additional duties added in 2004, restricted in 2011, and largely restored in 2019. 

Other Relevant Entities

By statute, the Inspector General sits on the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board (CROB). 

Special Note

The OIG is unique among US correctional oversight bodies in that it has the responsibility to vet all candidates for superintendent of juvenile facilities and wardens of adult facilities. The OIG reviews candidates’ qualifications and makes a recommendation to the Governor prior to any candidate’s appointment. Recommendations are confidential. More information on the OIG’s statutory authority for this role can be found here.