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California prison system chief says he plans to resign

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif.- The head of California's prison system, a reform-minded appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he's resigning after more than two years on the job because his efforts lacked political support.

Corrections Secretary Roderick Q. Hickman, 49, 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 told the Los Angeles Times in Sunday's edition.

While he believes Schwarzenegger remains interested in prison reform, Hickman said "the special interests we're up against are just too powerful to get much done in the current environment."

The influence wielded by the powerful 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 leaders also blamed him for the death of an officer who was stabbed by an inmate at the state prison in Chino, noting that the prison had failed to distribute 300 stab-proof vests to guards. Union spokesman Lance Corcoran said Hickman's "philosophy and his lack of leadership" created the climate for the killing.

Outside the state's prison system, brawls between black and Hispanic prisoners in Los Angeles County jails have injured more than 100 men this month and killed two.

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