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August 19, 2009

California prison and sentencing reforms getting closer to reality

As detailed in this local article from California, "Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are poised as soon as today to enact a package of far-reaching prison reforms that would allow some prisoners to serve the last 12 months of their sentences under house arrest, reclassify some property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and create a new sentencing commission to examine how sentencing laws contribute to prison overcrowding."  Here are more details:

Altogether, the proposal would cut the prison population by 27,000 in the next year, saving $1.2 billion, and 37,000 in the next two years. Republican lawmakers strenuously object and assert the plan would put dangerous criminals back on the streets, but they appear to be powerless to stop it.

The Capitol is under enormous pressure to act. Two weeks ago, a panel of federal judges ordered the state to craft a plan that would slash the 165,000-inmate population by about one-quarter within two years to relieve what the judges called a dangerous level of overcrowding. And the state budget plan the governor signed late last month included $1.2 billion in unspecified cuts to corrections; this proposal would realize those savings, proponents say.

To overcome GOP opposition, Democrats say they will pass the prisons package on a majority instead of a two-thirds vote. Although doing so means the plan would not take effect for 90 days, the governor's staff and Democrats say any erosion of savings would be minimal. Many ideas in the plan came from the governor, and Schwarzenegger has signaled he will sign it into law.

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August 19, 2009 at 11:02 PM | Permalink


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PBS' Jim Lehrer Newshour had a segment on CA prisons last night, but I thought it cast more heat than light on the subject - the issue sorta has too many moving parts to portray well on TV news. They did say part of the deal was that CA will cut rehab programming in half, which seems counterproductive if they're going to have to drastically reduce the prison population all at once.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 20, 2009 10:21:28 AM

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