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Zip Gun II

by Boston Woodard
Is this where our tax dollars are going?
A Likely Story
By Boston Woodard

Once again Solano State Prison in Vacaville California orchestrated a deceptive shake—down (search) of the institution for an imaginary Zip Gun. In March of 2008, Solano’s prison staff circulated a “Program Status Report/plan of Operation Notification” claiming a Zip Gun was on prison grounds. The source of their information was an Anonymous note. The lock down and subsequent search and confiscation of prisoner’s personal property yielded no Zip Gun. Countless grievances and staff complaints were tiled at the expense of, you guessed it, California tax payers.

On February 19, 2009, Solano prisons Building #23 was searched utilizing all available institution staff including Administrative Segregation and Central Services personnel. A massive amassment of prison staff such as this generates exorbitant amounts of overtime that is placed squarely on the back of an already broke California. The latest Zip Gun claim was written in a February 19, 2009 prison Status Report.

Prison Administrators and Public Information Officers (PIO’s) are quick to inform the citizens of this state that the ‘lock downs” and “searches” are compulsory. They blurt that institutional searches are ‘emergencies” and are conducted for “public safety.” Lock-downs are “extremely volatile and dangerous” situations and must be carried out with “utmost professionalism and alertness said one staff member when asked. “We have the safety and security of staff and inmates alike on our minds during these circumstances” he concluded.

This same “correctional professional” failed to mention that the safety and security of the twenty or so school children who were brought into Solano State Prison during the height of the latest Zip Gun ruse. That’s right, a gaggle of very nervous looking children involved with the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) from pleasant Valley High School In Chico California, were walked straight into the eye of the Zip Gun storm. There was no security with those young kids, only the prison’s public information officer and Community Partnership Manager (CPM).

Not only were these young kids brought into the prison during a massive lock-down and search for a gun, they were walked through the very yard where approximately 300 Zip Gun suspects were walking freely about. The hundreds of convicts were forced to strip naked inside the housing unit then ordered to dress outside on the yard after being gone over with hand-held metal detectors (“Wands”).

The children were allowed to walk through the convicts into the very building where the intense search was underway for a gun. Where was the concern for the safety and security of these kids? Several of the prisoners yelled out “Hey! get them kids out of here!” and “What the hell are you thinking?’ bellowed another convict. Prisoners witness inexpert and incompetent behavior by prison staff at times, but touring a group of extremely vulnerable, defenseless kids into this type of situation is inexcusable negligence that screams for an investigation. At the end of the all day affair, the 300 Zip Gun suspects were once again stripped and wanded. So much for thinking it was safe for the kiddy tour.

After speaking with dozens of prisoners about the search, the general colloquy was that the Zip Gun stratagem was a vindictive and retaliatory act by prison staff. It was also felt that it was more of a designed overtime scheme than anything else. The first red flag that it was all bullshit was when staff from Receiving and Release (R&R) entered Building #23 with a cart-load of prisoner’s personal property cards. It’s a safe bet to conclude that they were not looking for a Zip Gun Listed on the property card of a prisoner. More tell-tale signs this was retaliatory and/or overtime ruse were; the rest of the prisoners throughout the prison were allowed to go to their work assignments (many having direct access to the 300 Zip Gun suspects); there was no gunner (armed guard in a strategic location); extra staff were not assigned (not one) in Building #23 that was under suspicion until the day of the search; Building #20 (where the lock down report alleged that .22 cal. bullets were located) was never searched; a large group of school children were walked into a possible volatile circumstance that could have gone violent quickly, and the list goes on.

The reasons and events framing this whole Zip Gun scheme of February 19, 2009 smacks of being more than spurious. In March of 2008 for example, an overtime cap was placed on the guards by the legislature. Also in March 2008, prison staff were no longer allowed more than 80 hours of overtime per month. Within days, a Zip Gun Program Status Report claiming there was a gun on prison grounds was distributed. No Zip Gun or anything resembling one was ever located. This lock down and search stretched into nearly two months. How much money went toward lining the pockets of the guards and other staff involved during that time? Did something mirroring the events of March 2008 prompt this years’ Zip Gun claim?

Simple math and an (outside) investigation would surely uncover that these convenient “Zip Gun” and ‘Bullet’ anonymous notes are nothing more than vindictive, retaliatory, self serving events concocted by those staff involved and in charge. Did the prison’s press release to the public depicting the details of a possible Zip Gun search on February 19, 2009 tell everything? Was a press release even offered to the public about this? Someone needs to be held responsible for these outrageous, concocted wasteful events.

Did the unsuspecting families of the children carelessly shuffled through the mind field of convicts know of all this? Would the parents of these kids allow them to tour Solano State prison on the annual Zip Gun shake down day? I doubt it. Solano is a state prison, not a state park.


Boston Woodard is a prisoner/journalist serving his sentence in Solano State Prison. Boston has written for The San Quentin News, The Soledad Star and edited The Communicator.

Boston Woodard, B-88207
CSP-Solano, 23-F-1-L
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville, CA. 95696-4000
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