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Troubled state prison system losing chief

Troubled state prison system losing chief

By O’Ryan Johnson | Sunday, October 10, 2010 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Local Coverage

Photo by Ted Fitzgerald

Massachusettts is losing its prison czar less than three years into his tenure.
Massachusetts Department of Correction Commissioner Harold Clarke is leaving to take a job as head of prisons in Virginia to be closer to siblings and an adult daughter, he said in a statement.
Clarke was appointed commissioner in November 2007 by Gov. Deval Patrick, and came in as a reformer committed to reducing the recidivism rate that he said was the result of failed get-tough policies.
“The opportunity to come to Massachusetts has been a highlight in my career,” Clarke said in the statement released yesterday. “The administration and I share a passion for robust re-entry initiatives, knowing that properly preparing offenders for re-entry is vital to public safety.”
DOC spokeswoman Dianne Wiffin declined to comment beyond Clarke’s statement. A spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety did not return a call for comment.
“Our union didn’t always see eye to eye with the commissioner, but we were glad to work together,” said Massachusetts Correctional Officers Union President Brian Jensen. “We were as surprised as anyone to hear of his departure from Mass DOC.”
The cash-strapped system has been plagued by overcrowding and a spate of prison suicides in recent years.
“Inmate suicides and staff assaults have been on the rise,” said Jensen, blaming 2004 reforms. “It’s been on the rise during the current regime and they continued to focus on re-entry and rehabilitation.”
Clarke’s start date as director of Virginia’s Department of Corrections is unknown.
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1287875

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