The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, January 30, 2004

Schwarzenegger and the California prison goons - how's he doing?

Over the other side of the country, the media-friendly side of politics is preoccupying folks: the polls, the speeches, the candidates' wives - all the news that's fit for Diane Sawyer to mou about.

In the Golden State, it's all rather different.

Last year, the focus was on the Indian casino racket [1]. The 'generosity' of white pols (aided and abetted by a population that - to be charitable - may not have entirely appreciated the object of the exercise [2]) has spawned an industry producing revenues of around $5 billion a year. The gratitude of the Indians has been amply demonstrated - too amply, in the case of MEChA Man of La Raza Cruz Bustamante, whose wampum shipments were adjudged illegal during the gubernatorial campaign last September [3].

The Indians, so far as I'm aware, got away with their stash purely through the greed and folly of the paleface. Nobody got physically hurt.

A very different kettle of fish is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association [4], which, together with California politicians of both parties, seems to represent a variation on the combination of politics and organised crime that characterised American politics through much of the 20th century.

Unlike his two predecessors, Arnold Schwarzenegger took no money from the CCPOA in getting to be Governor. He is therefore, one might have thought, handily placed to set the criminal investigatory resources of the state (the fifth largest economy in the world, from memory) to taking the CCPOA apart and seeing its malefactors brought to justice.

(I suspect that there are a whole host of legislators, Republican as well as Democrat, who have come to rely on CCPOA money, and who would take unkindly to anything that stemmed the flow. And Arnie has budgets to pass, and so forth.

But, when Arnie said politics as usual had to go [5], he wasn't contemplating re-election, was he?)

His first notable action in the area leaves some room for doubt: he's decided to shut down the Office of Inspector-General, an independent watchdog responsible for monitoring the California Department of Corrections (San Francisco Chronicle January 28). And the Inspector-General himself, John Chen, has been fired.

The OIG received some attention from erstwhile governor Gray Davis (who was up to his neck in CCPOA moolah). According to the piece,
In the past two years, the inspector general's budget has been cut by 77 percent; it has only 19 employees now.

The budget moving in inverse ratio to the volume of CCPOA criminality? Or to the volume of CCPOA contributions?

Arnie says
I think that if there is a way of doing it and really letting the inspector general do the work that he is really needs to do, then I would consider that. But I have not seen that. Right now it has been a waste.

(Also this.)

Whatever way round the causality works, it seems that the OIG has been ineffective; as an editorial in the Pasadena Star-News says, referring to a gang of prison guards at Salinas Valley State Prison (January 28),
Given that the IG first uncovered the Green Wall gang in 1999 and is charged with oversight of the entire correction system, we'd say this dog is toothless.

So perhaps a new team, close to Arnie's office, with the face-time with the big man, and the budget, it needs, is the way to kick-start the effort to clean up the prisons, and the CCPOA.

But going along will be so much easier - by a factor of zillions. The experience seems to be that busting union rackets is hard work. And when the union concerned has got into the body politic like a virus - which the CCPOA seems to have managed - it's easy to argue that the cure is worse than the disease.

(My impression is that guards in public prisons are barred from striking by California law. But I suspect it would not take much goon-led disruption to bring the whole system to crisis point in fairly short order.)

Over to Arnie...

  1. Discussed more generally on October 16.

  2. To provide a large and regular cash flow, from which pols might expect to receive kickbacks - to their campaign funds, natch. All perfectly legal.

  3. Though the pols, like naive settlers of 100 years earlier, were not prudent in what they signed: long-term compacts (think of a dud car in a crusher) and the nonsense of tribal sovereignty leaves them with little leverage to put things right. Unless the gaming tribes - to which most Indians don't belong - decide to be extra greedy. And what are the odds...

  4. Last discussed on January 24.

  5. He said
    For the people to win, politics as usual must lose
    according to this.

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