CDCR Director, Matthew Cate, is leaving his position as head of the California’s prison system in mid November. The news was made official on Friday.
Cate has accepted a new job as executive director of the California State Association of Counties, where—among other tasks—he will work to smooth out the problems in implementing the state’s realignment system as it continues to unfold in the state’s counties.
Since his appointment to the CDCR post in 2008 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Cate has dealt with a series of crises in the state’s prison system, including an overcrowding problem so severe that it resulted in a critical US Supreme court decision mandating that the state’s facilities lower their population—or else.
Cate also oversaw the transition into the realignment system put in place by AB 109—in part to make the required reduction in the population.
In addition Cate dealt with a nearly system-wide hunger strike, which has resulted in, at least the beginning of some much needed policy changes and improvements in response to the prisoners’ demands, particularly those having to do with solitary confinement in places like the Pelican Bay secure housing units or SHUs.
Cate’s tenure also was plagued by severe budget cuts due to the state’s budget woes.
Through it all he was felt to have dealt with the problems with a steady hand, and seemed well liked by groups ranging from the conservative-leaning law enforcement unions to progressive justice advocates.
CATE’S REPLACEMENT REPORTEDLY HAS YET TO BE SELECTED. However, among those rumored to be considered are the following:
*Linda Penner, the Probation Chief for Fresno County.
*Karen Pank, executive director of the Chief Probation Officers of California.
*Martin Hoshino, currently undersecretary for program support at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Our sources tell us that the first two of these candidates, while capable people, are considered not ideal for this critical position by many of the state’s criminal justice experts, all of whom are watching with deep interest to see who will be chosen.
Hoshino is less well known by many on the outside, yet even before his position as the CDCR’s undersecretary, he has more than seven years of service with the department, previously serving as the executive director of the Board of Parole Hearings (appointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008) after having served as the assistant secretary for the Office of Internal Affairs from 2003 to 2008. Prior to that, he served as Chief Assistant Inspector General in the office of the Inspector General, which is the watchdog for the state’s correctional system.
In any case, we at WLA hope that Governor Brown and his advisors choose carefully and wisely when selecting Cate’s successor.
Under difficult circumstances, Matt Cate has moved the CDCR in a hearteningly productive direction. We would hope that the next director will be someone with the experience and the temperament to build on Cate’s progress and momentum.