California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger handed the reins of the state’s massive Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to James Tilton, a three-decade state government veteran who has been acting secretary since April, reports the Los Angeles Times. Tilton, 57, will earn $220,000 a year, making him one of the state’s highest-paid employees. His predecessor, Roderick Hickman, earned $131,412 a year when he left in February. The governor offered no explanation for the nearly 70 percent raise, but noted that “California’s correctional system is at a crisis point.” Schwarzenegger said Tilton would “deliver cost-effective solutions to relieve the dangerous overcrowding in our state prisons, as well as prepare inmates so they do not re-offend when they return to our communities.”
The department has a budget of more than $8 billion, 58,000 employees and 33 adult prisons holding roughly 172,000 inmates. It also is responsible for the state’s 3,000 juvenile prisoners, as well as more than 110,000 parolees. State prisons have been beset by problems that include overcrowding, a deteriorating medical care system and a recidivism rate that is the nation’s highest, with more than half of all parolees returning to prison within several years.