July 16, 2009

California Dream Transformed into a Nightmare

NPR had a tremendously important program today about a major contributor to why California's budget problems are so dire.

It's not just Proposition 13. And it's not just the dysfunctional state government. One of the biggest problems in California is the overcrowded prisons that eat more than $10 billion each and every year on a totally broken and overwhelmed system.

The biggest culprit? The tough-on-crime laws that imprison more and more people for longer times without any programs that might break the cycle. Other contributors? The powerful Prison Guard union which lobbies for higher pay for increasingly dangerous duty based on the growing prison population who are facing increasing draconian sentences with no reason to believe anything will ever get better.

And then finally, there's this: every year California releases 120,000 prisoners and every year, they re-imprison 75,000 for parole violations (an astonishingly high 62.5% recidivism rate) which makes the overcrowding worse.

Here was what I thought was the money quote regarding the insanity of our strict parole violation rules:

Texas used to have similar laws but found them too costly. So it slowly stopped returning parolees to prison for technical violations, and now Texas doesn't have the overcrowding and fiscal problems facing California, Sullivan says.

Ever since the Nixon days, Californians have voted for increasingly tougher laws, longer sentences and stricter rules on paroles. This is the result of the relentless conservative/authoritarian propaganda that makes punishment more important than rehabilitation despite the evidence that these policies are not just futile, but actually counterproductive in creating a safer and saner community.

Today, we are captive to the monster that the vindictive and harsh policies which do nothing to rehabilitate prisoners have wrought, guaranteeing that we will continue to spend more money to keep someone in prison than we do to put them in good schools. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Posted by Mary at July 16, 2009 12:40 AM | Law/Justice | Technorati links |

as far as a “welfare” state goes, the primary goal of government is to protect the people, this usually translates to supporting the military, but what good is a country if it doesnt protect its sick, its elderly and its poor.help drug addicts too, prevention and rehabilitation services are more effective and cost effective than throwing them into prisons where they can get drugs just as easily -once theyre released they cant get work because of a criminal record. if you treat them effectively they can become functioning members of society.
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Posted by: Malaysia will writing at July 16, 2009 08:39 AM

What i think about this is that the system is faulty and need to change. With a large number of people going criminals we cant afford the older technique to let themselves convert to good human beings. Most of them are under the influence that even if they get caught in some illegal activities, they are still going to get a proper life. We need to change this.
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Posted by: replacement coils at July 17, 2009 02:14 AM

As a country, we imprison more of our population than any other modern society. That goes not only for democracies, but for some rather heinous dictatorships, too. Keeping a large percentage of our population locked up, rather than becoming educated and being productive, is something we won't be able to afford much longer as a society.

I hope it's still OK to write comments here without spamming. ;-)

Posted by: Cujo359 at July 19, 2009 05:45 PM

Cujo - your spam free comment are truly welcome. But yes, it's sad. It appears some of the on-topic comments also have to come with an ad.

At least they are free of the pornography or other salacious crap that the truly annoying spammers contribute.

Posted by: Mary at July 20, 2009 06:18 PM