CDCR settles claim over Guard1 pipes for $50,000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s penal law enforcement agency on Tuesday settled a claim-in-intervention, filed in federal court downtown, over the statewide use of the Guard1 monitoring system on inmates subject to welfare checks.

The CDCR will pay a sum of $50,000 to CSP Corcoran inmate Christopher Lipsey, who said in a lawsuit that security company Guard1’s “PIPE” tool kept him up at night and violated his eighth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

The lawsuit arose from a motion to intervene filed in a case called Coleman v. Wilson, where a federal judge ruled in 1995 that CDCR violated the constitution by segregating mentally ill inmates without providing them with proper care. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows third parties to join as plaintiffs in a lawsuit if they can demonstrate an interest in the action.

Lipsey, serving time on an attempted murder rap in relation to a gang shooting in Los Angeles, said the system’s requirement of guards to push a metal button with the wand, in order to electronically record their presence during welfare checks, created an incessant “metal-on-metal” clanging noise every thirty minutes that kept him awake. The pipe also emits a high-pitched beep once a check is recorded.

“This noise, from several dozen metal-on-metal strikes every thirty minutes, awakens Lipsey repeatedly during the night,” lawyer Kate Falkenstein wrote in the complaint. “Once he wakes up, it is difficult for him to fall asleep again, because he is roused by another round of Guard One checks within thirty minutes, just as he is beginning to fall asleep again.”

Lipsey said that officers often miss the button and hit it several times or hit it harder than necessary because they grow tired of the tedious nature of the checks.

In papers filed Tuesday, Judge Kimberly J. Mueller approved the agency’s settlement with Lipsey. They will file a joint motion to dismiss with prejudice in the coming days.

Guard1 security units are installed in Administrative Segregation Units at every prison in the state, according to court papers. The pipes are touched against a metal button affixed to a cell door that transmits data to a desktop computer, which is reviewed daily by a supervisor to ensure inmates aren’t harming themselves. When the pipes aren’t placed on silent mode, or when a guard is rushed or careless, they can create excessive noise.

In addition to the $50,000 settlement with Lipsey, prison officials have agreed to provide free earplugs to all inmates subject to welfare checks in ASUs as part of their weekly supplies. Guards will place their Guard1 pipes on silent mode during first watch and will “take all steps necessary” to mitigate any extra noise caused by their gear during first watch.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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