Jeanne Woodford, who who began her corrections career as a guard at San Quentin prison, has been named California’s corrections director. The Los Angeles Times reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Woodford, 50, had a “proven ability to lead” and would bring needed reforms to the 32-prison system.
A 25-year veteran of the department, Woodford would become the second woman to hold the post and would earn $123,000 a year if confirmed by the Senate. She replaces Edward Alameida, who resigned in December. “She shares my priorities of public safety and accountability and is a tremendous asset to my administration,” Schwarzenegger said.
Woodford would take over as California’s $5.7-billion prison system faces scrutiny on many fronts. “It is a time of crisis in corrections,” said Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who is holding oversight hearings. “She is coming in at the worst of times….”
Among the challenges are strained relations between the Schwarzenegger administration and the prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. In a recent report and in testimony, the 28,000-member union has been accused of encouraging a “code of silence” that protects rogue guards from discipline. Yesterday, the secretary of youth and adult corrections, Roderick Q. Hickman, made public a memo he had sent to staff that there was “zero tolerance” for employees who adhere to a code of silence, and warned that those who do could be fired. The union is taking criticism for a five-year labor contract struck with then-Gov. Gray Davis’ administration that will give officers a pay hike of as much as 37 percent by 2006, pushing veteran guards’ salaries to more than $73,000 a year.
With California in a budget crisis, negotiators for Schwarzenegger are seeking to force union leaders to the bargaining table to accept contract concessions. In response, the union is flying a skull-and-crossbones flag outside its headquarters in Sacramento: “We are being portrayed as the Pirates of the Caribbean,” said union Vice President Lance Corcoran, “so we thought it would be fun to rally the troops.”