Ask John Hagar about the state of the state’s prisons and he gets right to the point, says the Los Angeles Times. California’s correctional system is in crisis, he says, and the governor’s election-year ambitions are bedeviling efforts to fix it. Last week, Hagar laid out his case at an extraordinary hearing in a San Francisco courtroom. As stunned onlookers stifled gasps, Hagar, a special master overseeing prison reforms for a federal judge, fired a barrage of accusations at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his innermost circle, alleging perjury, the trading of favors, politically motivated intimidation and more.
As Hagar sees it, Schwarzenegger’s bid for reelection has prompted his aides to improperly snuggle up to the prison guards union, a deep-pocket powerhouse in California politics. To sweeten relations, Hagar asserts, Schwarzenegger is granting the union clout over key decisions – and at least temporarily shelving his agenda of prison reform. Hagar’s blunt charges at the hearing – and in a written report released last month – have vaulted the compact man with the gray crew cut into a rare moment of public visibility. Typically, special masters labor in near anonymity. Appointed by judges as watchdogs in lawsuit settlements, they mediate disputes, monitor progress and periodically report on their findings for the court. A state senator who attended the hearing said that in accusing Schwarzenegger of giving the union undue influence, Hagar showed “more guts than any public official in California.”