Massachusetts Correction Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy, who was appointed to overhaul the state’s prison system after the slaying of incarcerated priest John Geoghan, has been asked to leave her post by Gov. Deval Patrick, reports the Boston Globe. Dennehy, who vowed to create “a more humane system” when she became the state’s first woman prison chief three years ago, will join the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, which has earned headlines for its prisoner chain gangs and television ban.
Dennehy, an appointee of Gov. Mitt Romney, has been a controversial figure. An insider who worked her way up through the state prison system, she inspired optimism among reformers who believed she would bring a new openness and crack down on alleged abuse by guards . She quickly fell out of favor with the union, which accused her of initiating policies that made the job of correction officers more dangerous. “Her management style has been nothing but abrasive,” said Steve Kenneway, president of the 5,000-member Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union. “Morale has never been lower.” The system has also seen a sharp rise in suicides on Dennehy’s watch.