Seven years ago, the California Department of Corrections tried to fire veteran employee Jonathan Cobbs. In June, the department promoted him to a chief deputy warden’s position at an annual salary near $100,000. The Los Angeles Times says the same prison system is simultaneously disparaging Cobbs in court papers, accusing him of misconduct and refusing to pay for his defense in a lawsuit brought by an inmate. The Times calls the situation “a mixed message no one can fully explain, but which illustrates the internal disorder of a prison bureaucracy burdened by budget shortfalls, inmate lawsuits, and a system for investigating misconduct by guards and supervisors that is widely considered dysfunctional.”
Cobbs’ troubles began with a raid on inmate cells at Corcoran State Prison in 1995 in which seven prisoners were injured. The Corcoran warden urged Cobbs’ firing, but he won an appeal and was promoted. Tom Quinn, a private investigator who works on behalf of inmates in civil rights cases, questioned the wisdom of Cobbs’ promotion. “This is very much, to resort to cliche, business as usual,” Quinn said.