Ex-California Prison Chief Quits Similar Texas Post
After only 13 months as director of Texas’ prisons, Ray Procunier has stepped down as head of the nation’s second-largest prison system, saying he “just ran out of gas.”
In an emotional farewell speech last week, Procunier, director of the California prison system from 1967 to 1975, said running the troubled Texas prison system had been “a more massive job” than he had anticipated.
Procunier had served as director since May, 1984, but decided to step down because he “just ran out of gas.”
The state Board of Corrections has named Lane McCotter as the head of the Texas Department of Corrections. The 44-year-old McCotter, who was strongly backed by Gov. Mark White, had been the department’s No. 2 man for the last year.
Procunier, 61, who cut short a fishing vacation in Michigan to announce his abrupt resignation, said the job had consumed him.
“I wasn’t able to get away. I go fishing on Saturdays and Sundays sometimes and--I didn’t forget about the place. I worry.”
The tough-talking administrator said the last straw was when a female prison guard was fatally stabbed June 3 by an inmate. “You can only hear of so many tragedies in your life. And that one was the last one for me.”
McCotter, a former military prison warden at the Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., stockade, was hired at the same time as Procunier to serve as second in command at the corrections department.
His appointment this week was a victory of sorts for White.
Several people involved in the hiring of the two men last year said that McCotter had been White’s favorite for the top post and that the governor’s relationship with Procunier had been chilly as a result.
Hershel Meriwether, an aide to White, said a closed-door meeting between corrections board members and the governor convened at the request of the governor’s four most recent appointees to the board.
Another board member, Dennis Hendrix of Dallas, said the purpose of the meeting was to “obtain the views of the governor” about who should replace Procunier, who also ran prison systems in Utah, Virginia and New Mexico.