Hastings Law Journal


California's prison system is totally broken and in urgent need of reform on many fronts. Over the past twenty-five years, California's inmate population has grown over 500%, the number of institutions has nearly tripled, and prison litigation costs have escalated tremendously. In 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger convened the Corrections Independent Review Panel to assess issues affecting the prison system. The Panel presented a number of possible solutions to the problems faced by California's prisons, but sweeping new reforms are still needed if the entire system is to be overhauled effectively and brought into compliance with constitutional requirements.

Among the Panel's recommendations was the implementation of an ombudsman program within the Department of Corrections. This Article proposes, however, the creation of an independent corrections ombudsman whose key objective is to foster good public administration with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. An independent ombudsman will complement the Panel's objectives of bringing credibility and transparency to the administration of the prison system and ongoing reform efforts, while helping restore the public's trust in the system. Creating an autonomous corrections ombudsman, with a legislative mandate to receive, investigate and, where possible, resolve inmate complaints, would promote and significantly advance the prison reforms underway, while reducing the enormous costs of litigation. The author also provides draft legislation establishing such an independent ombudsman at the end of the Article.

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