A quarter-century ago, Roderick Hickman was a correctional academy cadet eager to patrol the cellblocks of California. Now he’s the boss, His message to new recruits, says the Los Angeles Times: Beware, or this job will rot your soul.
The Times reports that Hickman, since his appointment four months ago as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secretary of youth and adult corrections, has “preached a rousing gospel of reform for an agency battling scandal on multiple fronts.” He told the Times: “This is a challenging time in corrections. We need to restore our integrity and regain the public trust…. It’s daunting, but we can’t go anywhere but up.”
Hickman, 47, was quickly summoned to testify before lawmakers who were holding hearings on the corrections system’s troubles. Rather than defend the state, he admitted that the prisons are dysfunctional institutions ripe for reform.
“So far, he is saying and doing all the right things, and that is a refreshing change,” said Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the oversight committee on corrections. “But can he turn this ship around? We’ll see.”
Hickman, who earns $131,412 a year, is the first African American corrections secretary and the first who has worked inside a prison. Hickman’s steely gaze and imposing physical presence – he’s a lifelong weightlifter – belie a softer center. Onetime foster parents, he and his wife, Gloria, a corrections captain, now have an adopted son. Hickman escorts the third-grader to Cub Scouts, and loves to recount how the boy, nervous about meeting Schwarzenegger at his father’s swearing-in, practiced his handshake repeatedly.