High Desert Suicide: Was a Prison Guard Hazed to Death?

Prison Reform Movement's Weblog- America: Land of the Free, Home of the Incarcerated

At one of the country’s most dangerous prisons, correctional officers face off against murderers, rapists, gangsters and each other

By Jessica Pishko

In August 2006, in the enclosed Z Unit of High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California, Officer Scott Jones, a correctional peace officer assigned to Search and Escort, joined in a hazing ritual known as the “Usual High Desert.” Sergeant Ernie Rausch had just received a promotion. To celebrate, Jones and several officers put the 6’7″ 280-pound Rausch into a “cage” — one of the phone booth-sized stand-alone units used to contain unruly inmates — and doused him with trashcans full of water. Officer Steve Oschner was there and later described the scene as part of a workers’ compensation claim investigation: “You put up a little bit of a struggle, you know. Then obviously it is in good fun and put him in the cage, got him wet…

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