September 22, 2009

Is Schwarzenegger’s Prison Plan Good Enough?

By Bernice Yeung | Crowdfund this with Spot.Us
Part of the Prisons & Public Health news blog

Facing a court-ordered deadline to reduce overcrowded state prison populations, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a plan last Friday (PDF) that would revisit a previously rejected “early release” program, along with other measures.

Early release would place elderly, medically infirm inmates and some prisoners with less than 12 months left to serve on their sentence under house arrest with GPS monitoring. Thus, an elderly or ill inmate could be “housed” in a hospital or treatment center.

Previously, Newsdesk.org reported that California’s underfunded public health systems are already struggling to absorb existing parolees, and that local officials fear that situation will worsen as the state tries to meet the court-imposed mandate to lower the prison population by 40,000 over the next two years.

The state estimates that early release, also known as “alternative custody,” could reduce the prison population by 4,800 inmates, but the measure was rejected by the California assembly earlier this month due to public-safety concerns.

“You do have a lot of hysteria that was whipped up,” California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) told reporters in late August. “We were going to release all these people, and that scares folks.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger emphasized that the proposal is tough on crime by calling it a “comprehensive public safety plan.”

Other components of the proposal include:

* Building, re-purposing or renovating 21 prisons by using $6.4 billion set aside through Assembly Bill 900.

* Expanding California’s out-of-state correctional facility program by an additional 5,000 inmates.

* Forming a 13-member sentencing commission to create sentencing guidelines based on research and empirical data.

* Changing the threshold for a felony property crime (grand theft) from $400 in stolen goods to $950.

Debate about whether the governor’s plan is tough or even smart on crime will continue, but it also doesn’t take a mathematician to see that for all of its potential strengths and weaknesses, the plan doesn’t meet the court mandate 40,000 fewer prisoners by 2011.

Under the current proposal, it would take five years to meet the court’s reduction goals.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan also relies on the uncertain cooperation of the state legislature; the state assembly has already abandoned some of his proposed reforms — such as the early-release program — that he reintroduced last Friday.

4 thoughts on “Is Schwarzenegger’s Prison Plan Good Enough?

  1. Deterrence is often proposed as a goal, but no one really knows whether the prospect of incarceration gives would-be criminals a reason to not commit a crime. Most of us are reluctant to admit it, we mainly use prisons as storage containers, putting people there with the hope that, if nothing else, five years behind bars means five years during which they can’t commit more crimes. It’s called warehousing, and we do a lot of it. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Facilities are strained, units are grotesquely overcrowded and space for medical and psychological services has become profoundly inadequate. We pay lip-service to the idea of rehabilitation, but we do little to make it happen. About 67 percent of the prisoners who are released are arrested again within three years. The result, to borrow a phrase from a Conservative British home secretary, has been “an expensive way of making bad people worse.”

  2. What would the state do if all these people that the Feds want to release and every one is crying about that there is no room and how much it’s going to cost to release them weren’t prisoners, but just regular people? What would the state do the same it does with everyone take there money and healthcare away or lower it so that they would barely be able to survive so what is all the fearmongering and bull sh## going on these people are citizens and the ones that aren’t send them back to wherever they came from and deal with the rest. What everyone needs to admit is that we have a giant problem that’s costing us our education and healthcare and money to our children and the Elderly and Disabled and Poor, there’s no time to be acting stupid and do the right thing release these people, if it wasn’t for greed all the rest of us wouldn’t be suffering now if all you politians would have done something along time ago,so stop your whyning and do it now!!!!!!

  3. i agree with the two articles above…we have a big problem here in Ca. its called politicians who think only about themselves. They’re taking away our education and medical from our childrens future not to mention present time. And as far as these prisoners let them out, they (the non violent) I dont believe are out to hurt people. So stop with the *ussy footen around already and just do it.

  4. Most court cases are long unjustified resulting in to much expenses and money talk…pity the poor and those with no connection to the top …like simple cases that the government trying to intervene in simple scoldinng of your owned child. They magnified the case and you lost everything house,job and the children when you don’t have any bad record at all.