California’s $6-billion correctional system is a failure that should be placed under the control of a civilian commission, say experts appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to the Los Angeles Times. Led by former Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, the panel said that only a radical restructuring can repair a system plagued by runaway costs, a high rate of repeat offenders, and abusive officers who often go unpunished. “Management in corrections has been deficient and dysfunctional,” said Deukmejian, a conservative on law-and-order issues who oversaw the rapid expansion of state prisons in the 1980s. “It’s extremely important that we have an independent commission to lead the way and monitor what’s going on.” Schwarzenegger’s aides dismissed that idea. Giving oversight power to a commission, a spokeswoman said, “would reduce accountability for the governor and grant it to a politically appointed board.” The spokeswoman laudd the report’s “many laudable and practical solutions.” The report, which contains 239 recommendations as disparate as employee ethics and the use of satellites to track high-risk parolees, will be the subject of public hearings in August.
Justice experts applauded the report’s conclusion that more education, drug treatment, and job-training are essential to cut the proportion of parolees who fail and return to prison. “This is a breath of fresh air and the sort of reforms that we have been looking for for many years,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the Oakland-based National Council on Crime and Delinquency. With 40 adult and youth prisons, 308,000 inmates and parolees and 54,000 employees, California’s system is the nation’s largest. From the 1940s through the 1970s, the panel said, California was viewed as the national leader in corrections, “a jewel” that pioneered standards copied by other states. Now, the report said the system falls short by almost every measure.