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August 26, 2004

Rehabilitating Rehabilitation

As I have noted in few older posts (example here), many states in recent years have taken steps to lessen sentences and expand treatment-centered alternatives to incarceration. And, as highlighted in this article from Governing Magazine, from Alabama to Maryland to Michigan to Texas, Republicans have been leading proponents of the modern shift from penal retribution toward rehabilitation.

After some important legislative action in California Tuesday, we will soon discover if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to jump on this bandwagon or to again play the Terminator. Here are some key parts of this Los Angeles Times article discussing these developments:

Signaling a sharp turn in attitudes about rehabilitating state prisoners, lawmakers Tuesday approved a sweeping new program to give inmates more schooling and job training to better prepare them for release. By the slimmest of margins, the state Assembly endorsed a bill aimed at reducing the huge proportion of ex-convicts who commit new crimes or parole violations and wind up back behind bars. If signed by the governor, the bill would trigger "an unprecedented shift" in the mission of state prisons, an Assembly analysis said....

A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the governor had no position on the bill. At the Department of Corrections, however, officials were opposed for fiscal reasons. They said the legislation would create an onerous and costly new burden, requiring them to craft an individualized education and job-training plan for each inmate. "We are committed to providing a range of rehabilitation opportunities for inmates," said spokeswoman Margot Bach. "But this sort of individualized approach would be difficult, considering that we have 160,000 inmates." Bach said no official cost estimate was available but said the changes would "run in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars." An Assembly analysis of the bill predicted costs of at least $400 million a year.


Notably, there is also an opportunity for President George Bush and the federal Republican leadership to join on-going efforts to rehabilitate rehabilitation. Earlier this year (in fact the day after Blakely was decided), the Literacy, Education, and Rehabilitation Act (H.R. 4752) was introduced in the House. As I understand it, LERA would award federal prisoners additional credit — up to 60 additional days per year beyond the 54 days per year already awarded — toward the service of a sentence for participating in designated educational, vocational, treatment, assigned work, or other developmental programs. The Federal Prison Policy Project, a nonprofit organization working on prison reform, has a useful summary of LERA here, as well as additional information about LERA on its main website.

August 26, 2004 at 05:01 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The LERA bill formly known as H.R. 4752
is now H.R. 3602. It was reintroduced
July 2005.
Thank you.

Posted by: LERA Campaign | Sep 13, 2005 7:06:30 PM

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