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California prison reform watchdog blasts policy reversals in state government

[JURIST] A federal watchdog charged with overseeing California prison reform has released a report saying that an abrupt reversal in policy by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) [official website] prompted two secretaries of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [official website] to resign earlier this year. The report by John Hagar, a federal court-appointed special master, blamed in particular Schwarzenegger's appointment of Susan Kennedy [press release] as chief of staff. A Democrat who served as Cabinet secretary under former Gov. Gray Davis, Kennedy has allowed the state prison guards union – the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) [union website] – to overrule critical decisions by the corrections secretary, according to the report. Former Corrections Secretary Roderick Hickman resigned suddenly [JURIST report] in February, citing a lack of political support and frustration with the powerful CCPOA. His replacement, Jeanne Woodward, stepped down after just six weeks for similar reasons.

Hagar's report accuses Schwarzenegger of giving too much power to the union as the November gubernatorial election approaches. Union representative Lance Corcoran dismissed Hagar's allegations as "baseless and shocking," noting that Schwarzenegger is campaigning to work with all state unions. US District Judge Thelton Henderson [official profile] appointed Hagar as a special master last year to oversee the California prison health care system [JURIST report]. At the same time, Schwarzenegger handed prison reform over to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. AP has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has local coverage.

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