The California Prison Industry Authority (CalPIA), which provides work opportunities for inmates under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), gave nearly $1.3 million in unlawful gifts to other state agencies and repeatedly violated merit-based employment principles, the state auditor reported July 27.

CalPIA, established to be a self-supporting and semiautonomous state agency similar to private industry, employs more than 900 people who work primarily on-site at adult prisons throughout the state. The agency produces goods and services including office furniture, clothing, food products, and printing. CalPIA’s revenue comes from the sale of its products and services. The agency is overseen by an 11-member board.

The auditor reviewed the agency after receiving allegations of improper activities.

The auditor found that the agency unlawfully gave nearly $1.3 million in goods and services to two agencies that did not further CalPIA’s purpose and “in some cases, the unlawful purchases were also wasteful.” The wasteful spending included:

  • In 2018, the agency spent approximately $82,000 on artificial turf for a prison, but as of March 2021, the turf had not been installed.
  • CalPIA paid more than $213,000 for executive leadership training designed almost exclusively for CDCR staff, and spent $443,000 for a perimeter camera system around a CDCR prison.
  • CalPIA spent approximately $350,000 on various equipment and other goods for the CDCR, and gifted nearly $163,000 of furniture it built to the CDCR and another agency.

Additionally, the auditor found that the agency “repeatedly circumvented the civil service laws when its executives influenced personnel actions to preselect desired candidates, including relatives and friends, for jobs and promotions.” The auditor found that CalPIA made 10 unlawful appointments from 2016 through 2019.