Reversing a long tradition of allowing prisons to operate as fiefdoms, California officials have proposed to put one person in charge and to prepare inmates better for life on the outside, the Los Angeles Times reports. Prison leaders for the first time in decades would emphasize rehabilitation, marking a shift away from an era when punishment was the overriding mission. In his State of the State speech Wednesday, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said his first attempt to streamline government would focus on corrections, and vowed that California would become a national leader.
The proposal targets a $6-billion system that most experts say is in crisis. The prisons have been rocked by federal investigations, budget overruns, a videotaped beating of juvenile inmates, audits exposing waste and mismanagement, and a federal judge’s threat to place adult lockups into receivership. There was no immediate explanation of how the stepped-up rehabilitation effort would be funded. Officials have asked consultants – including Joan Petersilia of the University of California-Irvine– to identify the most effective corrections programs nationwide.