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WHEN Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger starts the process of cleaning up state government, he will have to tackle the money pit that is California's correctional system.

The state prisons, which have swelled in population, now consume more than $5 billion of the state budget, despite their mediocre performance. The state's Little Hoover Commission recently found that California's parolee-recidivism rate is twice the national average.

A central part of the problem is the state's prison guards union, which owns one of the sweetest of all of Sacramento's sweetheart deals. But the union is doing its best to preserve its special status.

Starting Nov. 24, the union will be hosting a three-day junket for a bipartisan group of state legislators, including Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Westlake Village. The union won't be paying for air fare or lodging - that's what campaign contributions are for - but it will be wining and dining the legislators, taking advantage of the special access that only big money can buy.

It's hard to imagine that, when the politicians return, they'll say no to the union's demands, having just said yes to its largess. After all, sweetheart deals go both ways.

It may all be legal because the politicians who take the money and give favors also make the laws that allow the corrupt system to flourish. But it's repugnant, and one can only hope the process of cleaning up the corruption will soon begin.
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 16, 2003

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