California’s prison chief, Roderick Hickman, says he is beginning to turn around the troubled system, but his leading critic disagrees, the San Jose Mercury News says. At a hearing yesterday in Sacramento, state Sen. Gloria Romero took issue with the pace of reforms and the department’s ballooning budget. She suggested his re-confirmation to the prisons post could be in jeopardy. The inspector general and the state auditor praised Hickman for implementing some changes such as improving employee discipline, but they also agreed that much work remains to be done. And leaders of prison employee unions don’t trust officials of the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration. “We’re leading down a road toward disaster,” said Mike Jimenez, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
From Hickman’s viewpoint: “Our organization, from top to bottom, is thoroughly engaged in changing our system for the better,” Hickman said. We are literally changing the tires on a moving car.’ Among reforms under way are creating a comprehensive plan to prevent lawsuits, receiving ideas from outside experts, implementing a satellite tracking system to monitor paroled sex-offenders, joining with colleges to further inmates’ education, hiring medical experts, and improving treatment of female offenders. Hickman’s re-confirmation could be headed for trouble, based on Romero’s apparent lack of confidence in his oversight of the department’s $8.1 billion budget, its flawed projection that the prison population would decrease, and the relatively small number of inmates in rehabilitative programs.