The prefects are assisted by departmental councils.
Nicotera, minister of the interior, began his administration of home affairs by a sweeping change in the personnel of the prefects, sub-prefects and public prosecutors, but found himself obliged to incur the wrath of his supporters by prohibiting Radical meetings likely to endanger public order, and by enunciating administrative principles which would have befitted an inveterate Conservative.
The powers formerly vested in elective bodies were now to be wielded by prefects and sub-prefects, nominated by the First Consul and responsible to him.
At first the sharpness of the change was not fully apparent owing to the tactful choice of prefects made by the First Consul; but before long their very extensive powers were seen to form an important part of the new machinery of autocracy.
The new empress repaid her brothers by making them consuls and prefects, and used her large influence at court to protect pagans and Jews.