Skip to comments.Report: California prison system chief plans to resign from post
Posted on 02/26/2006 8:57:37 AM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - Corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman, a reform-minded appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, plans to resign from the post he has held for more than two years, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Hickman, 49, said in a telephone interview that he was quitting because he lacked the political support to reform the prison system. Hickman, who is the Schwarzenegger administration's highest-ranking black bureaucrat, said the governor would receive an official letter of resignation Monday.
"I think we've built an excellent foundation, but I just don't see the courage and will we need to get it done across the board in the government of California," Hickman said.
Hickman said he believes that Schwarzenegger remains interested in prison reform, but "the special interests we're up against are just too powerful to get much done in the current environment."
The lack of political support was hindering efforts to create a correctional system that was more than a revolving door for felons, Hickman said.
The influence wielded by the power prison guards' union also nudged him toward leaving his post, Hickman said.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association has fought with Hickman since he took the job - even though he began his career as a prison guard and was a union member for 20 years.
Union leaders initially were upset with Hickman for his campaign to purge the prisons of the "code of silence" that Hickman and others said deterred guards from reporting misconduct by colleagues. Union officials felt that Hickman wrongly portrayed all officers in the same bad light.
He also was blamed for the death last year of an officer, Manuel Gonzalez, who was stabbed by an inmate at the state prison in Chino after 300 stab-proof vests had failed to be distributed.
Union spokesman Lance Corcoran said Hickman's "philosophy and his lack of leadership" created the climate for the killing.
"What is really sad is he had an incredible opportunity to lead this department in a new direction, but he chose to alienate people," Corcoran said. "Our members are tired, they're demoralized, we have an unclear chain of command, and the management team is in complete disarray. It all happened under Mr. Hickman's watch."
Steve Fama, a lawyer who represents inmates in lawsuits over prison conditions, praised Hickman for "standing up to the union and trying to end the code of silence that too often permeates prisons."
The department under Hickman started a new parole program designed to keep more inmates from returning to prison by easing their transition back to a normal life.
And so it continues....
An accurate perception.
The system is in a struggle, torn from all sides. The CDC is becoming a fiscal monster, both from within as salaries and retirement costs rise, and from without as recidivism runs rampant.
There are solutions but, as Hickman laments, they require a major polical commitment, spending the samll amount of politcal capital available in each party, and as Hickman conveniently fails to mention, a substantial change in public attitudes, again requiring tremendous politcal capital to promote unpopular ideas, toward the purpose of incarceration.
Sunset the position, reorganize the state prisons into autonomous units and hold each accountable to a standard measured by adherence to internal order; transfer any guard who has a record of alterction to the most distant post willing to accept him or give him an early out.
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