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August 8, 2009

"Free 40,000 California inmates? Not so fast."

CALPRISON_P1 The title of this post is the headline of this new article in The Christian Science Monitor.  Here are some excerpts from an effective piece:

Is California about to open its prison gates, freeing more than 40,000 inmates?  Earlier this week, a federal judicial panel gave the state 45 days to come up with a plan to cut its prison population in order to adequately care for its inmates.

But don't expect inmates to be freed from any of California's 33 adult prisons next month.  Even if prison officials come up with a plan that both lawmakers and the federal court justices accept, the state would have two years to carry out any reduction.

If the court does actually mandate a release, the state would appeal that ruling to the US Supreme Court. Right now, state lawyers are still reviewing the justices' 184-page decision that was issued Tuesday.  "All the court has asked for in this ruling is for the state to develop a plan in 45 days … so the legal question is whether or not the state can appeal a ruling that directs us to come up with a plan," says Seth Unger, press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation....

The judges want to see a reduction in population to "137.5 percent of the adult institutions' total design capacity."  Prison population is now at 195 percent of capacity, according to Mr. Unger. "But design capacity can be somewhat misleading.  Capacity is based on one inmate per cell…. You can put two inmates in a cell and have them safely housed," he says....

The state government doesn't dispute that prisons are overcrowded – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an emergency over the issue in October 2006.  But California Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate says the justices overstepped their authority in forcing the state to come up with a plan....

Independent of this week's court order, the state has already proposed several ideas for lawmakers to ponder.  These proposed measures could result in a reduction of some 27,000 inmates and save the state $1.2 billion in one year.

August 8, 2009 at 09:23 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Since California already reduced the Corrections budget by $1.2 billion per year they've created a catch-22: If they don't lower inmate numbers, having already reduced the prison budget, it seems certain the feds will prevail.

To be tuff-on-crime you have to pay to play.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 9, 2009 8:26:34 AM

"To be tuff-on-crime you have to pay to play."

How cute. Of course, Grits, people get locked up because they are a danger to society. Cute little phrases like that don't cover up appalling cases like the murder of Lily Burk.

Don't be so sure about the "feds" (By "feds", I presume you mean Reinhardt and the other two lunatics.) winning.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 10, 2009 3:14:52 PM

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Although police and other correctional authorities may continue to protest cuts & direct tiresome scare tactics upon the public with lurid tales of legions of violent criminals being unleashed upon the streets, the fact of the matter is that the state no longer has the funds to continue the present course and is forced to curtail its prison population as a result. Of course,if there existed the political will to do so, the current outmoded revenue generating model which up until recently was able to feed the correctional system's growing bureaucracy could be redesigned to reflect today's lower revenue genersting "service" economy. Then the correctional system could continue to grow ever larger and incarcerate more and more "dangerous" criminals. Redesigning our present revenue generating structure would mean that freeloading individuals and corporations would have to agree to pay their share of taxes, just like the working people who were supporting the system in the past, when there were good paying jobs. Only now there are fewer and fewer people earning enough to satisfy the correctional system's appetite, and newsflash: This is a apparently a permanent situation. It's a new ballgame, economically. The old system is finished, through, over, done with, dead,kaput. Pay up suckers!
Signed,
Just another unrepresented taxpayer enjoying the show

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