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June 11, 2006

The sorry state of California's prisons

Following up this week's major policy report on the state of America's prisons by the bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons, today the Washington Post has this extended article describing the crisis condition of California's prison system.  Here is how it begins:

This is what conditions are like at one of California's best prisons, the California Rehabilitation Center: Built to hold 1,800 inmates, it now bulges with more than 4,700 and is under nearly constant lockdown to prevent fights. Portions of the buildings, which date to the 1920s, are so antiquated that the electricity is shut off during rainstorms so the prisoners aren't electrocuted.  The facility's once-vaunted drug rehab program has a three-month-long waiting list, and the prison is short 75 guards.

It is even worse throughout the rest of California's 32 other prisons, which make up the second-largest system in the nation after the federal Bureau of Prisons. Despite a vow from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to cut the prison population, it has surged in recent months to more than 173,000, the worst overcrowding in the country, costing taxpayers more than $8 billion a year.  More of those inmates return to prison because the state has the nation's highest recidivism rate.

A senior prison official warned not long ago of "an imminent and substantial threat to the public" and fears of riots have only increased, prison officials and correctional officers said. The situation has left Schwarzenegger, who faces reelection this year, with one of his biggest political problems.

The rest of the thoughtful article highlights the transition from a rehabilitative to a law-and-order model of sentencing and corrections.  Indeed, the Commission's report, entitled "Confronting Confinement," urges a renewed emphasis on rehabilitation in prison systems as a salve for modern prison problems.  (Additional effective media coverage of the report comes from the AP and the Los Angeles Times.)

June 11, 2006 at 10:40 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Hello my name is Irene Rodriguez, I'am a mother of
a thrid striker, my son was convicted of a non-violent offense and sentected under the current California Three Strikes Law. To 25-years to life for a non-violent offense. I'am currently involeved with Families To Amend The Three Strikes Law and have been since the incareration of my son over 6 years ago. I commend you for your article and any information that we can get to the public regarding this law. The people of California we fooled into voting for this law. We all thought it was to get the Richard Allen Davis's off the streets and away from our children to keep them safe. It was or we thought to take his kind of the streets, the rapist, the murderers, the one's that continue to go after our little ones.
Thank You, Irene Rodriguez San Jose, Ca.
children who cant protect themselves.

Posted by: Irene Rodriguez | Dec 12, 2006 5:45:12 PM

I am a mother of a son who has never committed a crime before, only 18years old and simply just hung around the wrong crowed, his crime was burglary, yes I know it's violent, but it was one time and the only time he ever committed this crime and no one was harmed nor confronted, nor was anyone armed and dangerous just plain stupid (Mind you, I'm aware of the laws in California about burglary) and they charged him with two strikes and sentenced him to 4years in prison, HE FACED 18YEARS IN PRISON BEFORE THE PLEA BARGIN, I guess $10,000.00 paid for a more lenient sentence? Never once did they consider any other solution other than to throw him into prison and lock him up and throw away the key. Oh by the way, because he has two strikes he was denied probation. He will serve 85% of his sentence because of his two strikes, pay restitution, pay court fees, and after he gets out and for as long as he lives on this earth, he'll never have his record expunged because he was denied that life changing right... in essence, he could be potentially damned for the rest of his life. Furthermore, during our ins and outs of court hearings, there was a man who was charged with two counts of child molestation, and was allowed to go home and come back to court the following month, because the child wasn't "young" enough, they deemed this mans actions as "not violent enough"??? What? Go figure? Oh and now, I'm suppose to feel safe. This man was allowed to do this not once but twice and potentially again and again? Okay, I guess I don't know much about the law, but there are some crimes "we" can commit and would be allowed to walk out the door and repeat them again being very careful not to turn these repeated offenses into strikes.

Posted by: Andrea McDonald | Aug 31, 2007 1:30:36 AM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 11:28:12 PM

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