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June 17, 2008 -- Associated Content (US)

A High Price To Pay For Integrity; Interview With [CA Prison Guard] Donald J. Vodicka

Blowing The Whistle On California's Department Of Corrections And "The Green Wall"

By Dee

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive


When a prison riot between inmates and guards broke out in a maximum security facility, Salinas Valley State prison in California on Thanksgiving Day in 1998, corrections officer Donald J.Vodicka's life would be changed forever. In an attempt to document evidence of injured inmates, Vodicka was behind the camera that day. What was normal standard procedure would be shunned on by a group of guards, and Vodicka was told by other guards to get rid of the photo's and evidence of injured inmates. To cover-up evidence.

Vodicka was up against a prison guard gang known as "The Green Wall." A gang of guards whose corruption would force Vodicka into becoming a "whistleblower." A gang like any other street or prison inmate gang, with a hand signal that flashed the letter W for "wall" and some bearing tattoos, and other signs that gangs have. Named "The Green Wall" for the color of the uniforms they wore. Vodicka stated that what began as 15 members had grown to over 400, of the 600 guards and officers in Salinas Valley prison. A gang who disregarded prison codes and procedures, and whose corruption was worse than some of the inmates they were paid to guard. Vodicka said they "bullied, and instilled fear and intimidation in the prisoners."

Vodicka's intentions were never to open up a can of worms, and he didn't intend to get any of his friends in trouble, but once that can of worms was opened, Vodicka exposed a corrupt prison system in what he thought was just between the guards, but soon find out the hard way that it was only the beginning. "Higher ups" and officers from Internal Affairs were also involved. Vodicka stated that when he went to the prison union about this matter "They wouldn't talk to me and walked away." He realized at that point the seriousness of the matter.

Vodicka would soon be a marked man, a "snitch," a "whistleblower" and his life would never be the same, ever. He was told that he would "never work for the CDC or live in the state of California again." His life was threatened and he now lives in hiding, living a life different from what he was used to. He wears a bullet proof vest, and has an armed highway patrolman as his body guard when appearing in court or in California on business. He said he used to enjoy sports but that he basically stays home most of the time. He lost his career, financial security, safety, friends, and some family members while maintaining his courage, honesty, ethics, truthfulness, and sense of righteousness. Indeed a high price to pay for integrity.

Vodicka, a former army veteran and correctional officer of 17 years was brought up by his parents to have integrity, ethics, and to always tell the truth. He said his dad told him on his last breath before he lapsed into a coma "me and Mom love you, believe in you, tell the truth" I interviewed D.J. by telephone, and he said he witnessed inmates beatings, punishments, and some who were to be released soon would have weapons planted on them and receive additional time. He said "I was hired to guard and protect these prisoners, not to sentence them to time, that was the job of the courts."

Vodicka worked in 5 different prisons in California, and stated that in his opinion Pelican Bay was the worse of them all. California's prison system is one of the largest in the nation, and known for it's corruption, and overcrowding conditions. While researching this article I came across a video taken at Salina's Valley State prison that can be viewed here. It gives a glimpse of a racially segregated, overcrowded, prison, high in tension.

Because of the exposure to the corruption, Vodicka changed prison reform bills and authored a new Law Enforcement Code of Ethics:

As a law enforcement officer my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all people to liberty, equality and justice.

I will keep my public and private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or my Department. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life. I will be exemplary in obeying the law and the regulations of my department.

I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities, organizational associations or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.

Confidential information received in my official capacity shall remain undisclosed unless disclosure is necessary in the performance of my duty. I will never engage in acts of corruption, bribery, insubordination or the obstruction of justice, nor will I condone such acts by other peace officers. I will immediately report acts of misconduct by staff of my department and cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.

I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.

I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am serving as a law enforcement officer. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals. dedicating myself before all present to my chosen enforcement.

Donald J. Vodicka

Vodicka currently has a nonfiction book regarding the "Green Wall" and the events that occurred when he "blew the whistle" on the corruption that occurred and is presently seeking a publisher. He also has a website titled The Green Wall where more information can be obtained, along with photos, videos, and other article links.

Vodicka was interviewed for the video "Torture, America's Brutal Prisons" and can be viewed here, in the later part of the video, although I encourage everyone to watch the complete video. Parts of this video include violence and nudity, so please be warned that it may not be suitable for children.

D.J. is a courageous man who stood up, alone against what he felt was wrong. He understood there would be consequences, and sacrifices. If only there were more men like him, men with integrity, our nation's prison system would be a place that could rehabilitate prisoners. Vodicka stated himself that there are many inmates "who don't belong in prison" and that old sentencing laws need to be changed, like the "Three Strikes Your Out" law, which incarcerates someone for a third crime and basically "throws away the key."

When those who are guarding the prisoners are corrupt themselves, who can we get to "Guard the Guards"?

We welcome comments on this article.


Interview with Donald J. Vodicka by telephone & documents provided by Vodicka

The Green Wall website: (now defunct)

You Tube for Torture, America's Brutal Prisons:

You Tube Salinas Valley Maximum Prison:

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