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October 17, 2008 -- Los Angeles Times (CA)

Prison Guards' Union Drops Campaign To Recall Schwarzenegger

Union President Says The Group Will Shift Its Resources Toward The Battle Against Proposition 5, The Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act

By Michael Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

SACRAMENTO -- The state's well-heeled prison guards' union is dropping its campaign to recall Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and devoting resources to defeating a ballot initiative that would expand the ability of drug offenders to enter treatment programs instead of jails and prisons.

Lance Corcoran, a spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., said Thursday that the union would still "challenge this governor on his policies on both corrections and labor relations."

But the window for a recall was too short, he said, given that the Republican governor leaves office at the end of 2010.

"By the time we get it qualified, he's only got six or seven months left," Corcoran said.

Schwarzenegger had said the union launched the recall effort out of anger over a contract dispute. The governor's aides and some union members also suggested it was a tactic by union President Mike Jimenez to rally his troops in the face of a tough reelection challenge last month, which he won.

A recall petition submitted by the union was rejected for technical flaws by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, and will not be resubmitted.

"We thought all along that all this recall talk was totally unproductive," said Julie Soderlund, a spokeswoman for the governor, who flew to Florida on Thursday to attend fundraisers today for Proposition 11, which would change how state legislative districts are drawn. The union gave $250,000 in August to fight that initiative.

The guards' union contributed $1 million Wednesday to the campaign to defeat Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act.

That initiative, opposed by many state law enforcement groups, has received significant support from wealthy out-of-state philanthropists such as billionaire George Soros, who has kicked in $1.4 million. Both sides plan television ads.

Overall, the initiative's backers have reported raising more than $7 million for a law they say would rehabilitate drug offenders instead of perpetuating the cycle of incarceration.

Even with the union's contribution, the opponents have reported raising only $1.4 million.

Corcoran said the measure is "the most dangerous initiative on the ballot . . . the ultimate lie."

"What it does is make it impossible for literally dozens of crimes to be prosecuted," he said.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, a spokeswoman for the Proposition 5 campaign, said the donation reflects a desire by the union and its 30,000 members to preserve the status quo in the state's overcrowded prisons.

"They're not interested in solutions," she said. "They're interested in a sizable prison population."

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