David Allyn Dokich - Serial Child Rapist / High Risk Sex Offender

Monday, March 06, 2006

Governor has chance to fix prison system

Experts say he must import an outsider with political clout

James Sterngold, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, March 6, 2006

With the surprise resignation of the state's corrections secretary last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a chance to repair what some experts say is one of his worst failures, the growing problems of the desperately overburdened prison system.

But corrections experts have some sobering news for the governor -- the job, most agree, may be impossible to perform without drastic changes.

In interviews, a number of experts generally agreed that the new secretary ought to be a high-profile personality from outside the department with great political clout and that the governor must make a far stronger, personal commitment to see parole reforms through. They also said that sentencing laws should be changed and that the state must pour more money into drug rehabilitation.

But even if those changes were made, few of the experts were optimistic. Most said the atmosphere in the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is so poisoned by infighting and paralysis that few would want the job.

Joan Petersilia, a visiting law professor at Stanford University who worked two years as a special adviser to the outgoing secretary, Roderick Hickman, said one of her assignments was trying to recruit experts for high-level jobs. She always failed, she said, not because of the depth of the problems, but because the candidates complained that the department was too politicized.

"What I kept hearing was they always questioned the sincerity of the people at the top," said Petersilia. "They just didn't feel this was a very professionally run organization. They said it was too political, and you were too much at risk of being replaced if you upset anybody."

The Schwarzenegger administration inherited a prison system suffering an array of problems that, most agree, the governor has largely failed to correct or has made worse.

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