California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan for reorganizing the agency that operates youth and adult prisons ran into criticism yesterday from Democratic legislators and reform advocates, who called it a well-intentioned effort that fails to fix serious flaws, reports the San Jose Mercury News. State Sen. Jackie Speier told the state’s Little Hoover Commission that the proposed reorganization takes no specific action to halt out-of-control spending or fix a floundering inmate health-care system. Other speakers warned that by combining some functions of the adult and juvenile systems, the plan could make things worse for juvenile offenders.
The plan would consolidate authority in a central office and move away from a decentralized structure in which wardens have vast discretion to run individual prisons as they see fit. The state houses 170,000 inmates, with 54,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $6 billion. Roderick Hickman, who is secretary of the state’s Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, sounded like critics when he testified that his agency needs “drastic and fundamental reform.” In a departure from previous administrations, Hickman and other officials say they want to move toward a system that emphasizes rehabilitation and uses research to determine the most effective programs to lower recidivism rates.