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September 12, 2009

Updates on all the prison craziness in California

As detailed in this Los Angeles Times article, legislators in California finalized its "plan to cut the state's giant prisons budget, passing a hard-fought measure that would reduce the inmate population by thousands but stop far short of solving the overcrowding crisis."  Here are more of the specific details:

The prisons measure, SBX3 18 by Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), would reduce supervision of low-level offenders on parole so they could not be sent back for violating the terms of their release. It would allow some offenders to earn shorter terms by completing rehabilitation programs.

Legislative officials estimated that under the measure, the prison population would fall by 20,000 to 25,000 over two years.

But the bill no longer contains provisions passed by the Senate that would have moved thousands of inmates to home detention and created a commission with the power to change state sentencing laws. Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), called the final bill "prison lite," although she voted for it, and declared: "What's not in the bill is a resolution and solution to this prison crisis."

The vote was the culmination of weeks of controversy and dispute over how to safely cut the population of the state's overcrowded prisons to ease budgetary pressure and satisfy a federal court order to reduce the number of inmates.

The Senate, despite fierce opposition from law enforcement, had approved a broader package of cuts earlier in the summer to reduce the number of inmates by 37,000 over two years, nearly the amount federal judges have demanded.

Meanwhile, this SCOTUSblog post details that the Supreme Court also issued an order in response to California's request for a stay from having to comply with the prison reform order issued by a three-judge panel that demanded a deeper set of prison population cuts:

The Supreme Court refused on Friday evening to interfere with a federal court order requiring the state of California to draw up a plan for the mandatory release of up to 46,000 prison inmates to relieve overcrowding in state penal facilities.  In doing so, however, the Court indicated it would have an opportunity to examine any implementation of such a release before it actually occurs.

The Court order in Schwarzenegger, et al., v. Coleman, et al. (application 09A234), noted that the three-judge District Court had “indicated that its final order will not be implemented until this Court has had the opportunity to review the district court’s decree.”

September 12, 2009 at 03:06 PM | Permalink


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While I understand that something needs to happen in CA, I find the idea of having people on probation/parole who can not be revoked troubling. What is the point of supervision in such a situation?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 12, 2009 3:42:03 PM

Soronel, the issues were confused with propaganda. See Locking them up longer doesn't pay that links to a study. Or for convenience, here is a direct pdf of the study itself.

On reason in California is that so many thousands of inmates are parole violators who were violated for petty violations. There is about a 70 to 1 parolee to parole officer ratio. Now it will be about 45 to 1 and parole officers can concentrate on the most dangerous and violent. That's the thinking, anyway. Keep in mind that parole is often up to 3 years after completion of sentence, which means a parolee could get a 16 month sentence and still do up to 3 years additional for parole violations on top of the 16 month sentence. So the inmate could do 16 months, get violated, do a year, get violated, do another year, get violated and do another year, all on a 16 month sentence. If I understand it correctly.

Posted by: George | Sep 13, 2009 12:37:48 AM

That does not sound unreasonable depending on the violation.

I do not see positive drug tests (so long as they are confirmed) or getting arrested again as technical violations. Now, showing up five minutes late for a meeting and getting revoked would be stupid.

But having a population under supervision that cannot be revoked for any reason just sounds like a waste. If you aren't going to at least threaten revocation end the supervision.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 13, 2009 1:15:44 AM

There can be enhancements for subsequent convictions, I believe. They must have 5 years clean to avoid that, so a technical violation can still have consequences on any subsequent arrests. And it is new crimes people are most concerned about, isn't it? I'm hoping someone with more knowledge will jump in and explain it better.

Posted by: George | Sep 13, 2009 2:13:52 AM

Continued drug use /is/ indicative of new criminal activity. Being a few minutes late to a meeting not so much.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 13, 2009 9:58:36 AM

the governor and his pal Brown could not fool the supreme court and get them mixed up with their sheer stupity. the court is not going to support anything arnie has to say. afterall he was the first one to holler (fire)! and when the villigers tried to put the fire out, he cried (wait)! the question is are the prisons overcrowded or not? whatever decisions the federal judges makes will not be questioned. the judges just wanted to pacify Arnold until this messed is over with. anyone that understands how the court operate know this. arnie is lucky he not in prison for comtempt!

Posted by: annie hall | Sep 16, 2009 9:20:46 PM

It's interesting how we speak of 3rd world Countries but can't see the barbaric, inhumane actions on our part. The health situation in California prisons not only affects the inmates-the diseases that inhabit their bodies eventually reach you and me. Communal diseases may start with a small population but will eventually spread like a wild fire.

Almost all of the State prisons are impacted by the H1N1 Virus or, the Desert Dust Virus. if you believe that the Prison Guards, the workers and visiting family members and friends are not transporting these viruses throughout the State, think again.

We, the people of California should be bombarding The Gov. and Legislators to keep the original proposed Senate plan of releasing the 36,000 inmates and those of you in Landcaster, where you have been bamboozled into the conversion of a Maximum security facility, not one mile from schools and homes, should not allow for your senator to comment on the new proposal to, release only 16,000 inmates, as a ploy and an act of contempt :. "I hope they find it inadequate, reject it and then we appeal to the Supreme Court." said state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster.

We, the people have lost control of our Prisons, this is a our opportunity to regain some control-let's not allow it to slip away

Posted by: sam | Sep 19, 2009 1:30:05 AM

I just came back from The Prison Project at the Chowchilla Woman's State Prison. Our Graduate Program in Spiritual Psychology offers a counseling program there every six months. This was our 12th Prison Project and now held in the gym due to an overwhelming interest in signing up for the three day course. We had Approx. 370 participants involved. The program started at 8 am and ran till 4:30 pm daily. The days were drama free and ran just as smoothly as our Master's Degree program did. The women were hungry for the opportunity to learn to be more of the people they hoped to become. What was most astonishing to see was the girls there under the age of 18 years - serving life sentences under the Three Strikes Law. It was apparent that almost all of these girls/woman were sexually molested by a family member and often turned onto drugs to ease the pain (sometimes these drugs were given by their molesters), which then led to their offense(s). These girls need assistance and rehabilitation - they need a chance at the life that they were not given. They are our children. I wonder, how can we fail them like that. I observed that they are so filled with self imposed judgment, guilt, shame, hopelessness, and fear. I witnessed the acknowledgment of their crimes hurting, affecting, damaging others lives and how they feel they should pay for what they did. I heard in their words and emotional expression that they were remorseful. My heart breaks for them as they face a future behind bars with no opportunity for redemption, rehabilitation, training, education, and great awareness of their true potential. Is there anything else we can do for them I am wondering.... Our legislators need to visit these prisons and see what I saw. They would be sickened at our lack of compassion and vision.

Posted by: Veronica Landes | Oct 29, 2009 6:01:33 PM

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