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Thursday, September 3, 2009

California Industrial Prison Complex Needs Reform

California Industrial Prison Complex Reform

California's need for prison reform is absolutely staggering and a need for a change in the way we view certain crimes is completely necessary. The country is in the grips of a fiscal crisis, the question of how states can cut costs is ever looming; it is no secret that billions of dollars are spent every year imprisoning non-violent offenders, most of which are drug related, in California. There is no question that California's Industrial Prison Complex needs reform and policy changes are vital to helping us relieve some of the states fiscal stress. Today, the total is 168,000 inmates in California which is an increase of 740 percent since the 70's and it costs annually 10 billion dollars to operate; California has a $26 billion budget shortfall, so prisons account for almost half of that number.

A three-judge federal court panel Aug. 4 ordered California to reduce its prisoner roll by 43,000 inmates over the next two years. This is a huge step but there are a lot of people who are against the idea of setting convicted offenders free because we are in a budget crisis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has cut prison spending by 1.2 billion which will only work if they reduce the amount of inmates. According the Coastal Post, "The state, the judges wrote shortly before a major riot at the state prison at Chino, has created a "criminogenic" system that actually pushes prisoners and parolees to more crimes through "appalling," "horrific" prison conditions: "Thousands of prisoners are assigned to 'bad beds,' such as triple-bunked beds placed in gymnasiums or day rooms, and some institutions have populations approaching 300 percent of their intended capacity. In these overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent, infectious diseases spread more easily, and lockdowns are sometimes the only means by which to maintain control. In short, California's prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage."" That being said it is hard to believe that cutting prison spending without inmate reduction can do much good at all, it will only fuel the fire.

The reformist Drug Policy Alliance and its allies, a year ago, put a "Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act" on the ballot. Drug treatment officials and a group of former corrections officials, believe that prison is not the answer to the drug problem in California; drug treatment has the greatest chance for curbing recidivism. Billions of tax dollars would be saved and could be put towards more constructive ideas throughout the state. On the other side of the United States, New York has repealed the "Rockefeller drug laws" which were the cause of prison over population as result giving drug offenders long sentences. In the last decade the New York State prisons have reduced their population by 10,000, a pretty amazing feat accomplished by offering treatment as opposed to prison. California obviously has some catching up to do, but, it is clear now what has to be done and New York is direct evidence that it is possible.

"Now California reformers are pushing a "People's Budget Fix" formula they say would save at least $12 billion over the next five years. It includes a claimed $5.5 billion through community-based addiction treatment for minor drug offenses (proposed by the Drug Policy Alliance)", reports the Coastal Post. It seems that we are heading in the right direction now that people realize that drug offenders, as well as the public, are better served by being provided treatment rather than locking people up and just expecting that that will change their behavior.

2 comments:

  1. California's proposal to shrink its budget deficit by cutting its prison population is a lukewarm response to a golden opportunity. California, and America, have a tragically overstimulated system of corrections, but if the solution were easy than it would have happened already. A fresh approach to how we understand prison and the goal of incarceration is the basis for a new system that balances crime prevention with the cost of locking up so many Americans.

    Read more: http://www.theinductive.com/articles/2010/4/27/the-prison-audit.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. California's proposal to shrink its budget deficit by cutting its prison population is a lukewarm response to a golden opportunity. California, and America, have a tragically overstimulated system of corrections, but if the solution were easy than it would have happened already. A fresh approach to how we understand prison and the goal of incarceration is the basis for a new system that balances crime prevention with the cost of locking up so many Americans.

    Read more: http://www.theinductive.com/articles/2010/4/27/the-prison-audit.html

    ReplyDelete

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