Date: April 16, 2005
California prison guards do crossword puzzles for 'training'
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California prison officials ordered an end to using word puzzles as a substitute for guard training Friday after a state assemblyman questioned how finding hidden words such as elf, snow and gingerbread prepare officers to handle dangerous convicts.
Guards at some prisons were being told they could complete nearly one-quarter of their annual training by doing word-search and crossword puzzles on the job.
Correctional officers are supposed to receive 52 hours of training each year in such things as firearms, use of force and transporting prisoners. Forty hours are hands-on but Department of Corrections spokesman Todd Slosek said a union contract that took effect last July required the remaining 12 hours be spent studying bulletins with policy changes, administrative directives – and puzzles.
One exercise required guards to find the names of professional football teams hidden among a jumble of letters: "Complete the word find puzzle below and submit it...to receive one hour...credit. Good luck and have fun!"
"It's unbelievable what they're doing," Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez said.
"Just totally unacceptable."
In a memo Friday, two Corrections Department chief deputy directors said the puzzles can still be included but can no longer be considered part of the training program or completed to earn training credit.
Lance Corcoran, a union official, blamed the puzzle practice on a lack of funding for real training.