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Former San Diego city councilman Ralph Inzunza is finally behind bars, the only council defendant to go to prison in the city's Cheetahs strip club bribery scandal that grew out of the role of then-city attorney Casey Gwinn, son of a Congregational minister and born-again Christian, and others in passing a law barring nude entertainers from giving lap dances.

As we documented almost a decade ago in May 2002, national anti-strip club crusaders out of Cincinnati, Ohio lobbied for the so-called six-foot rule and the result became history--and ultimately bad news for Inzunza.

Taken into federal custody at the end of last month, Inzunza is being housed at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, an institution located on a former part of Castle Air Force Base, about 130 miles southwest of San Francisco in the San Joaquin Valley.

His scheduled release date is August 17 of next year, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Based on a reading of the penitentiary's "Admission and Orientation Inmate Handbook," some of life at Atwater may distantly echo Inzunza's former career at city hall.

Take, for example, the prison's "town hall" meetings:

"Town hall meetings are held on an as needed basis to make announcements and to discuss changes to unit/institution policies and procedures," the handbook says.

"Inmates are encouraged to ask relevant questions of the staff; however, questions during town hall meetings should be reserved for matters pertaining to the unit as a whole.

"Town hall meetings are not intended to be a forum for discussion of individual personal problems."

Those familiar with the work schedule of the San Diego city council may also detect faint similarities to Atwater's routine.

"On Weekends and Holidays, inmates may sleep as late as they want, but they must clean their area and make their bed before leaving the unit."

And though Inzunza won't be able to slip over to the Grant Grill or Dobson's for lunches with lobbyists as he did in his council years, the prison provides a variety of "leisure time activities."

"Active activities are outdoor recreation which will include basketball, softball, volleyball, handball, and soccer.

"The recreation department offers sports official classes for volleyball, soccer, softball, and basketball,"according to the handbook.

"Passive activities are indoor recreation which include chess, checkers, spades, dominoes, pinochle, tri-ominoes, and scrabble.

"Recreational equipment can be checked out through staff but must be checked in prior to your leaving the recreation area."

In addition: "The Crafts area is open to inmates interested in painting to include acrylic and watercolor, origami, calligraphy, and crochet.

"Additionally, the Education Department will also offer vocational training classes in Janitorial, Culinary Arts and Computers."

If those endeavors aren't appealing, prisoners may turn to "unit-based activities."

"These activities include cardiovascular equipment, closed circuit televison movie program, hobby craft program, and various games.

"All hobby craft projects must be pre-approved and you are responsible for obtaining and maintaining an authorization form for all projects."

And inmates may pick from the menu of the prison's "wellness program," which according to the handbook, includes, "nutrition class, beginners classes and aerobic classes, yoga classes, wellness resource center, fitness assessments, body fat testing, and cardiovascular equipment."

There is also a music program, which "provides guitars, trumpets, and saxophones. These instruments will not be removed from the recreation area."

As for conduct during visiting hours: "Handshaking, embracing and kissing are permitted within the bounds of good taste on arrival and departure of visitors. Other physical contact is prohibited."

But in at least one important aspect, Atwater prison life differs from that at Cheetahs, if not city hall:

"Female visitors will be required to wear a bra and all appropriate undergarments."

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 6, 2012 @ 4:53 p.m.

OMG, no wonder they call it Club-Fed. This place is awesome!

BIG difference between "county time" and Club Fed time! The new inmates in "local prison", aka county jails-hate it because it has nothing even close to this, just lock down time in a cell 17 hours a day.


monaghan Feb. 6, 2012 @ 6:48 p.m.

Snarky and funny, especially the last sentence, but this story makes me feel sad for Ralphie. I remember him at his energetic best, more than a little arrogant, on a roll, just elected to City Council and elated at his political success. I was sure he would be the first Latino Mayor of San Diego one day. I hope he uses the time at Atwater to read a lot and stay well. I have no idea what he's learned from this travail, but I hope it serves him for the rest of his life and that he will come out a humbler, more reflective person who still wants to make a contribution to the community. He has what it takes to do it.


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