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On December 16, 2017, California lost a fine public servant with the premature death of Carole D’Elia, Executive Director of the Little Hoover Commission (LHC). The Little Hoover Commission is a unique independent state oversight agency that was created in 1962 to identify inefficiencies in state government and promote sound public policies. Carole began working at the Commission in 2001 as a policy analyst but was soon elevated to deputy director and then executive director. During this time the state’s youth and adult corrections systems were under consent decrees for deplorable and inhumane conditions that seemed to defy political remedies. Undaunted, Carole assumed a leadership role and directed the LHC’s ongoing efforts to highlight the state’s prison crisis by conducting investigations, commissioning advisory panels, producing reports and conducting public hearings. It was in this capacity that I came to know Carole as a principled leader who represented the best in public service. 

As a participant in a number of the LHC advisory panels that examined California juvenile and adult corrections policy, I experienced firsthand her dignified resolve to solve California’s prison crisis. Under her leadership, the LHC produced two monumental reports, Solving California’s Corrections Crisis: Time is Running Out and Juvenile Justice Reform: Realigning Responsibilities, which formed the foundation for the state’s efforts to finally reform its youth and adult corrections systems. When the United States Supreme Court issued its 2011 opinion that decreed California’s corrections system to be unconstitutional, it was the LHC report that they first cited. The recommendations contained in the report then became the basis for the reforms initiated by Governor Brown.

Unlike many policy bodies that produce reports that once completed, are relegated to a shelf and forgotten, Carole fought to ensure that recommendations put forth by the LHC became state policy. It is from her determined efforts that California was able to ease the prison crisis and begin to steer corrections policy in a more sensible and enlightened direction.

Thank you Carole for your good work towards improving the lives of all Californians. You will be missed.