Wednesday
July
30
2014
12:05 am
Weather

  Home
  Local News
  State / National / World
  Sports
  Opinion / Letters
  Business
  Arts / Entertainment
  Lifestyle
  Obituaries
  Calendar
  Submit Event
  Comics / Games
  Classifieds
  DJ Designers
  Archives
  Advertise With Us
  About Us
 
 
 
 

Check out our archive of Dining Guides - Yum!

OP-ED: Getting real on prisons
July 03, 2014, 05:00 AM Lompoc Record

“Recidivism” is a 10-cent word for a multibillion-dollar problem. Briefly, it means criminals getting out of prison, committing another crime, then going back to a cell.

Crime-and-punishment policy makers have been trying for years to figure a way to reduce recidivism rates, to close or at least slow the revolving door through which released inmates walk, only to commit a new crime and be escorted right back to prison.

Gov. Jerry Brown came up with a strategy that he said would reduce California’s ridiculously high recidivism rate: realign the state prison system, sending low-level offenders to county jails, where — in the governor’s publicly stated opinion at least — those inmates stood a better chance of being rehabilitated.

We have been skeptical, and critical, of the governor’s realignment plan from the start. It seemed to us that, while reducing recidivism rates was the stated reason for sloughing state inmates off to county jails, the real reason was federal government watchdogs hovering over California’s mismanaged prison system, forcing the governor and Legislature to do something, anything.

Now, the facade of reducing recidivism rates seems to have been removed. A study conducted for the Public Policy Institute of California tells a different story about the overall effects of realignment.

There has been a slight decrease in the number of re-arrests of released inmates in the first year of freedom, but the proportion of recently released inmates arrested multiple times has increased by 7 percent.

No one can say for certain what those statistics mean, although it seems reasonably evident state inmates sent to county jails are being released and committing multiple crimes.

And the reason that’s happening also seems fairly obvious — the prison realignment scheme was launched at a time when most of California’s county jails were bursting at the seams, overcrowded with local criminals sent to local jails because of rigidly unrelenting get-tough-on-crime and sentencing laws.

It seems so obvious to us, because Santa Barbara County’s main jail has been chronically and hopelessly overcrowded for years. In fact, on multiple occasions, the courts have ordered early release for the least offensive of the offenders.

The local jail overcrowding situation is among the main reasons why the state was so willing to pony up the millions of tax dollars to help finance construction of the North County Jail.

All of which makes the prison realignment plan just another political ploy, with policy makers at the state government level scrambling to compensate for their mismanagement and loss of control of the California prison system, and hoping realignment would get the federal government off their backs.

We aren’t big fans of federal intervention in state government, but in California’s case, it was absolutely necessary. The situation in California’s state prisons before the feds stepped in was a textbook demonstration of cruel and unusual punishment, something the U.S. Constitution frowns upon.

Prisons shouldn’t be country clubs, but neither should they be warehouses of chaos, mayhem and disorder. As much as law-abiding citizens may want convicts to suffer, that’s not the way our justice system was designed to work.

So, if studies indicate realignment’s claim of “reduced recidivism” isn’t working, what’s the next step?

We will toss that hot potato back to the governor and Legislature, who need to get serious about reforming the prison system, and provide more resources for programs to actually rehabilitate inmates, rather than shuttling them to overcrowded county jails — which apparently results in a high percentage of the recently released to commit more crimes.

 

 

Tags: prison, state, inmates, county, jails, released,


Other stories from today:

Letter: Thinking and planning
Letter: Treasure Island
Letter: Fracking moratorium
 

 
Print this Page Print this Page  |  Bookmark and Share
<< Back
 
Return To Archives
 
  


 
 
 
Daily Journal Quick Poll
 
Do you think Social Security will be solvent when you retire?

Yes, I'm already retired
Yes, I'm not there yet but it will be
No, the baby boomers will exhaust it
Not without major changes
It better be
Too heady to think about

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Report: Health premiums rose significantly in 2014
SACRAMENTO — California’s insurance commissioner released a report Tuesday showing the cost of h..
Fogging for West Nile in San Mateo Wednesday
San Mateo County mosquito officials will once again fog in San Mateo Wednesday night after more mosq..
Twenty evacuated because of gas leak in San Mateo
About 20 people were evacuated in San Mateo this morning as crews sealed a small gas line break, a P..
Lawmakers try to seal $225M aid package for Israel
WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican members of Congress scrambled Tuesday to seal a $225 millio..
Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel on Tuesday unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war a..
More >>  
 
 
  
 
  
 
©2014 San Mateo Daily Journal
Millbrae news