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Law & Justice

Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Jeanne Woodford, San Quentin State Prison

Jeanne Woodford and David Onek

In Episode #9, Jeanne Woodford, former Warden of San Quentin State Prison and former Acting Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, discusses becoming San Quentin’s first woman warden, the impact of prison programming cuts on public safety, the reasons for her resignation from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the opportunity for criminal justice reform due to the budget crisis, and more.

Jeanne Woodford Interview Highlights

Woodford on the Impact of Prison Programming Cuts on Public Safety:

“I am very concerned about the impact of the cuts in programs inside our prison system … When you have inmates leaving our prison system having participated in nothing while they were there, I am very concerned about public safety. California has the lowest number of inmates participating in programs of any state in the United States. Prior to these cuts, 50% of our inmates participated in programs and the national average was almost 70%. With these recent cuts we even have fewer inmates involved in academic, education or drug rehabilitation programs.”

Woodford on Her Resignation from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation:

“I was given very little discretion and it certainly did influence my decision to resign. I think one of the last things I said to the Governor and his staff was I am either running this or I am not. And it was very clear I wasn’t running it, the politics of Sacramento was really running that department.”

Woodford on the Opportunity for Criminal Justice Reform Due to the Budget Crisis:

“I thought that as we started having these huge budget deficits that it was a real opportune time to look at criminal justice in California and decide what is the cheapest and most effective way to achieve public safety, but it hasn’t materialized. We’ve had small changes but not the kind of changes that we need to bring down the costs and improve the effectiveness of the Department of Corrections. I would hope we would get there as we begin to understand that for every inmate we put in prison that means that we have less teachers, that we have less police officers on the street. The greatest deterrent to crime is solving crime and so if you move your money out of incarceration and move it to prevention and solving crime, you really can improve public safety.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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