Two California state senators want to protect the state inspector general’s office, which acts as at watchdog over prisons, and give it more teeth to compel reforms, the Los Angeles Times says. The office, which conducts investigations launched by whistle-blowers and inmates, suffered a 76 percent staff cut approved by the legislature last year. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to cut more funding and move the unit into the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency.
Democratic senators Jackie Speier and Gloria Romero said that would all but cripple the office and make nvestigations impossible at a time when scrutiny is badly needed. At least one Republican, Sen. Jim Brulte, seemed willing to join the Democrats in opposing the Schwarzenegger proposal and restoring funding to $7 million, instead of the $630,000 the governor has proposed.
Roderick Q. Hickman, secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, asked the senators yesterday for at least two months to rebuild the internal discipline process.
After the hearing, Hickman acknowledged that the prison system’s problems are complicating his search for a new director of corrections to replace Edward S. Alameida, who resigned last month. Hickman said that when he approaches candidates, they often “get a glazed look” that reflects the “significant challenges” in California. Among them are the size of the system – 32 prisons, 161,000 inmates and about 50,000 employees – as well as the power of the guards union and litigation against the department.