CORCORAN — While inmates are usually the first thing people think of when they hear the word “prison,” it’s the staff that took the spotlight Wednesday when California State Prison, Corcoran commemorated its 30-year anniversary.
“A prison of this magnitude and complexity as CSP Corcoran can only operate as well as it does because of the amazing staff that operate it day by day,” Warden Martin Biter said.
At the anniversary ceremony, Biter took time to reflect on the past.
Corcoran State Prison, the 19th prison built out of 35 current state prisons, was built on 942 acres in Corcoran and cost $262 million. The facility began operating on Feb. 22, 1988.
As of today, the prison spans 515 acres and is a multi-mission institution comprised of nine facilities. It currently houses 3,074 inmates and is one of the largest employers in the city of Corcoran.
Biter said although there have been difficult times at the prison, there has also been a “kaleidoscope of happy memories [and] supportive friendships that will last a lifetime.”
“We have often traveled down the road less traveled, and as such have grown together as a team; which has made us stronger, more resilient, supportive, encouraging and enduring of each other.”
Biter said he had seen the challenges and triumphs staff face every day and wanted to thank everyone involved with the prison for their dedication and hard work over the last 30 years.
“Corcoran State Prison is second to none in my heart,” Biter said. “I am honored to have had the privilege to work here with such outstanding people at this prison that I believe are not only making a difference, but are inspiring change.”
Eleven members of Corcoran State Prison staff were recognized for working at the prison for 30 years and were presented a certificate and a coin.
Correctional officer Rey Aguirre was one of the employees recognized for working at the prison for the 30 years it’s been open.
“I was here before the inmates were here,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the facility has changed dramatically from the time when he first started on the job. He said he comes from the “old school” days and has seen the system come a long way.
“It’s turned to the better,” Aguirre said. “I think we’re getting more response out of the community and out of the inmates themselves. There’s not as much turmoil that we used to have back in the day.”
Aguirre said his favorite part of the job is the people he works with.
“We all do things different and every day is different,” Aguirre said. “It’s exciting. Every day is a new day.”
After working at the prison for 30 years, Aguirre said he appreciates the support of his coworkers and his family, especially after a long or bad day.
“They’re a very understanding family,” Aguirre said.
Connie Gipson, deputy director of facility operations in the division of adult institutions for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, served as warden of the prison for nearly three years and said attending the ceremony was like “coming home.”
Gipson echoed Biter’s thoughts and said it is the staff of the prison that holds the place together with all their hard work and dedication.
“It’s working together collectively that has made this prison stand for 30 years,” Gipson said to the staff in attendance. “The efforts you put forward don’t go unseen. You’re making a difference every day.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony were members of the Corcoran City Council, including Mayor Raymond Lerma, Vice Mayor Sidonio Palmerin, and Council members Jeanette Zamora-Bragg and Patricia Nolen; and representatives from the offices of Senator Andy Vidak and Assemblyman Rudy Salas.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Wednesday in the wake of a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency, and nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson to lead it.
A Navy rear admiral, Jackson is a surprise choice to succeed Shulkin, a former Obama administration official and the first non-veteran ever to head the VA. Trump had been considering replacements for Shulkin for weeks, but had not been known to be considering Jackson for the role.
In a statement, Trump praised Jackson as "highly trained and qualified."
Jackson has served since 2013 as the Physician to the President, and gained a national profile earlier this year for holding a sweeping press conference on the president's health.
Brigadier General Dr. Richard Tubb, who trained Jackson, said in a letter read at Jackson's briefing that the members of the White House medical team have been "figuratively Velcro-ed" to Trump since the day after his election.
"On any given day," he wrote,"the 'physician's office,' as it is known, is generally the first and last to see the President."
A White House official said Shulkin was informed of his dismissal by Chief of Staff John Kelly before the president announced the move on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.
Shulkin is the second Cabinet secretary to depart over controversies involving expensive travel, following former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's resignation last September. Trump said in a statement he is "grateful" for Shulkin's service.
A major veterans' organization expressed concern over the Shulkin dismissal and Trump's intention to nominate Jackson, whom they worried lacked experience to run the huge department.
"We are disappointed and already quite concerned about this nominee," said Joe Chenelly, the national executive director of AMVETS. "The administration needs to be ready to prove that he's qualified to run such a massive agency, a $200 billion bureaucracy."
Shulkin had continued to insist he had the full confidence of the White House amid continuing investigations over his travel and leadership of the department. He had agreed to reimburse the government more than $4,000 after the VA's internal watchdog concluded last month that he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and that his then-chief of staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense. Shulkin also blamed internal drama at the agency on a half-dozen or so political appointees who were rebelling against him and Bowman, insisting he had White House backing to fire them.
But the continuing VA infighting and a fresh raft of VA watchdog reports documenting leadership failures and spending waste — as well as fresh allegations being reviewed by the IG that Shulkin used a member of his security detail to run personal errands — proved too much of a distraction.
It was the latest in a series of departures for top administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired by Trump earlier this month.
The sudden departure comes as Trump is currently seeking to expand the Veterans Choice program, a campaign promise that major veterans' groups worry could be an unwanted step toward privatizing VA health care. His plan remains in limbo in Congress after lawmakers declined last week to include it in a spending bill.
Having pushed through legislation in Trump's first year making it easier to fire bad VA employees and speed disability appeals, Shulkin leaves behind a department in disarray. Several projects remain unfinished, including a multibillion-dollar overhaul of electronic medical records aimed at speeding up wait times for veterans seeking medical care as well as expanded mental health treatment for veterans at higher risk of suicide.
Trump has selected Robert Wilkie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to serve as the acting head of the VA. It is government's second largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans in more than 1,700 government-run health facilities. The selection of Wilkie bypasses VA Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman, who has come under criticism for being too moderate to push Trump's agenda of fixing veterans' care.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA, which was still reeling after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, in which veterans waited months for care even as VA employees created secret waiting lists to cover up delays. Criticizing the department as "the most corrupt," Trump said he would bring accountability and expand access to private doctors, promising to triple the number of veterans "seeing the doctor of their choice."
Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.
The son of an Army psychiatrist and grandson of a VA pharmacist, Shulkin is a former president of the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He was president and CEO of the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and chief medical officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
LEMOORE — Police have arrested a woman after she allegedly offered an undercover officer sexual acts in exchange for money
On Tuesday, Lemoore Police said the department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team and detectives conducted a compliance check on different massage parlors throughout the city of Lemoore.
About 1:30 p.m., the team checked a massage and spa business located in the 200 block of Heinlen Street, officials said.
Police said an undercover investigator was offered sexual acts in exchange for money by 50-year-old Mariam Side. Officers said Side was arrested on suspicion of prostitution and booked at the Kings County Jail.
Authorities said a search warrant was served on the business and police found and secured additional evidence in support of the criminal act of prostitution.
HANFORD — Police have found a suspect they said stabbed his stepfather multiple times.
The Hanford Police Department said 29-year-old Roger Custo Martinez fled the scene of stabbing Sunday before officers’ arrival. Officers found and arrested him on Wednesday.
Just before midnight Sunday, officers said they responded to an address in the 1100 block of Galileo Avenue for a report of a stabbing.
Officials said the first officers at the scene performed emergency medical services on the victim until paramedic personnel arrived.
The 35-year-old male victim was transported to an area hospital and police said he is in stable condition.
During the course of the investigation, officers said they determined the victim was stabbed multiple times by Martinez, who is the victim’s step son.
Authorities said Martinez was booked into the Kings County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder.