California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named Matthew Cate, a prison watchdog and former prosecutor, to lead the state’s troubled corrections agency as it copes with rampant overcrowding, federal court oversight, and a massive construction program. The Los Angeles Times says Cate, 41, head of the Office of the Inspector General and a former deputy state attorney general, replaces James Tilton, 59, who announced his retirement, citing health reasons. Cate becomes Schwarzenegger’s fourth corrections secretary since the governor took office less than five years ago, and said he hoped to close the revolving door.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a proposed $11.8-billion budget and 67,000 employees. It runs 33 adult prisons, oversees ex-convicts on parole, and manages youth prisons. “If the governor asked me who’s the most qualified, best person in the whole state to take on this enormous challenge, I would say Matt Cate,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. “I think he’s been capable of getting to the heart of the matter and clearly communicating issues without inflated rhetoric. He’s not a guy who comes in and gives big speeches. He’s a guy who gets things done.” Tilton struggled for access to Schwarzenegger and was undermined by an aide with ties to the governor’s chief of staff. He reached out to county officials on prisoner re-entry issues. Joan Petersilia, a University of California Irvine criminologist, said that was a change from previous philosophies that focused on what was happening inside the institutions.