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September 11, 2007

Editorial calls for a California sentencing commission

This morning's San Jose Mercury News has this editorial, entitled "Time running out on prison reform," discussing California's continued struggles with systematic sentencing and corrections reform efforts. Here are snippets:

California has one last stab at legislation that could avert a court takeover of the state's prison system. But time is running out. A bill to create a sentencing commission must be passed this week. The commission would make sense of the crazy quilt of sentencing laws that helped cause the prison overcrowding that lawsuits now are forcing the state to alleviate.

A panel of three federal judges is considering whether to intervene further. They'd likely view a failure to pass a bill as another sign that the governor and Legislature simply aren't up to the task of reform. A commission has worked well in other states to establish uniform and even-handed sentences....

It's one thing to be tough on violent criminals. But California has been cramming prisons with drug offenders and minor parole violators, while providing neither space nor money for job training and drug rehab. It can't claim its current sentencing and parole laws are working; the state has the nation's highest recidivism rate.

A sentencing commission would include judges, prosecutors, public defenders, victims' advocates, legal scholars, sheriffs and mental health experts.  It would set sentencing priorities, in part by studying what has worked elsewhere.

September 11, 2007 at 08:25 AM | Permalink

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