“He can take it,” said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of a federal judge’s threat to name a receiver to take charge of state prisons, reports the Los Angeles Times “It’s no sweat off my back,” the governor said yesterday after a tour of Mule Creek State Prison, about 40 miles southeast of Sacramento. The governor said he doesn’t expect that to happen. He said he had a “wonderful” phone conversation with U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson, who had broached the prospect of a takeover, and sought to persuade him that his commitment to improving the prisons is genuine. “He is 100 percent with us,” Schwarzenegger said. “We will work together with him. I have the utmost respect for him, and together we can do it.”
State Sen. Jackie Speier, who has led oversight hearings on the Department of Corrections, said: “It’s surprising that the governor would say, ‘It’s no sweat off my back.’ It’s like saying, ‘We failed and the courts must take over now because we’re not going to be able to make the reforms.’ I can’t believe he really thinks that.” Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit firm that has repeatedly sued the state over its treatment of inmates, said: “I agree totally with the governor. The prison system is too big and too impaired by the California bureaucracy to function properly. It really needs a big jolt from somebody outside to bring about reform.” Housing 165,000 adult and juvenile offenders, California’s penal system is the largest in the nation.