After launching “one of the most productive periods of prison reform” in state history, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has retreated and given the guards union a “disturbing” level of clout over prison policy and operations, a federal court investigator has charged, the Los Angeles Times reports. Special Master John Hagar accused Schwarzenegger of backpedaling and warned that state was returning to an era when union leaders were allowed to “overrule the most critical decisions” of administrators.
Hagar linked the turnaround to the governor’s appointment of Susan Kennedy, a one-time aide to former Gov. Gray Davis, as his chief of staff. Within four months of her hiring, two of Schwarzenegger’s handpicked Corrections Department chiefs had resigned amid concerns that union officials were being given too much say over appointments and other management moves. After their departures, Hagar said, prison leaders were “confused, understaffed, dispirited, and most important, uncertain who is really in charge” – the head of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or the president of the union, known as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. With 31,000 members, the union is one of the most powerful players in California politics, having contributed millions to candidates and initiative fights in recent years.