Ca. Takes Advice From Criminologist Petersilia


For the last 15 years, those who managed California’s prison system, the nation’s largest, mostly ignored outside experts, the Los Angeles Times reports. Now, Corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman is listening to criminologist Joan Petersilia of the University of Calfornia at Irvine. “With her blend of academic smarts, diplomatic skills and real-world know-how, Petersilia has been embraced as a sort of guru who can help California fulfill one of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most ambitious mandates: creating a corrections system that corrects, rather than merely locks up, lawbreakers,” the Times says. “This is not rocket science; it’s harder than rocket science,” says the pragmatic 54-year-old. “It took us 20 years to create this monster. It would be foolish and dangerous to assume we can fix it overnight.”

Petersilia was hooked on criminology by taking a class at Ohio State University class taught by the famed Simon Dinitz. She later headed the criminal justice program at the Rand Corp. Her priority is to scour the nation for programs with proved results and decide which to import. She is also creating a research center for corrections. “I used to break down the door to get these people’s attention, and now they’re inviting me to the meetings,” she said. “There won’t ever be a moment like this again.”


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