Facing unprecedented warnings from a federal judge, managers of California’s teeming prisons are overhauling an internal disciplinary system that consistently fails to curb corruption and rein in rogue guards. For years, experts have pounded the Department of Corrections for operating a chaotic system that is unfair to employees while allowing abuse of convicts and other crimes to go unpunished, reports the Los Angeles Times. With U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson threatening to place the prisons into receivership, department officials are unveiling a new strategy for policing their own.
Over the past seven months, prison leaders have rebuilt their disciplinary system, creating a model they hope will ensure that official wrongdoing is swiftly and justly punished. For the first time, a manual will spell out for wardens what sort of punishment to dispense for lapses such as abuse of sick leave and unreasonable use of force. In addition, investigators preparing disciplinary cases will from now on be teamed with lawyers to ensure their work is free of errors that can cause a case to collapse on appeal. Skeptics note that this is not the first time the state has pledged to become more aggressive in tackling misbehavior among the 50,000 guards and other workers in California’s $6-billion prison system.