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June 29, 2014

Can and should California's enduring CJ problems be blamed on those who've long opposed a state sentencing commission?

The question in the title of this post is part of my take-away from an engaging and spirited debate with Bill Otis and others that I participated in here over at Crime & Consequences.  The debate began when Bill highlighted this disconcerning recent Los Angeles Times article highlighting that prison reforms in California under Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment plans have not been working out as well as Gov. Brown promised and everyone else might have hoped.  Here is an extended passage from the LA Times article: 

Nearly 15 months after launching what he called the "boldest move in criminal justice in decades," Gov. Jerry Brown declared victory over a prison crisis that had appalled federal judges and stumped governors for two decades.  Diverting thousands of criminals from state prisons into county jails and probation departments not only had eased crowding, he said, but also reduced costs, increased safety and improved rehabilitation....

The numbers tell a different story. Today, California is spending nearly $2 billion a year more on incarceration than when Brown introduced his strategy in 2011. The prisons are still overcrowded, and the state has been forced to release inmates early to satisfy federal judges overseeing the system....

Counties, given custody of more than 142,000 felons so far, complain that the state isn't paying full freight for their supervision.  Many jails are now overcrowded, and tens of thousands of criminals have been freed to make room for more.  "The charts are sobering," Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) said at a hearing this year on crime, prison costs and inmate numbers....

In theory, the state would reduce its prison population and save money [through realignment].  Local authorities would take a more active role in rehabilitation and parole — an approach Brown saw as more efficient and effective. "You have to take care of your own," said Diane Cummins, Brown's special advisor on realignment.

The reality, however, is that realignment fell short of Brown's promised achievements. The prison population fell sharply at first, dropping from 162,400 to 133,000, but it is rising again. There now are 135,400 inmates in state custody, a number expected to grow to 147,000 in 2019.

The state Finance Department originally projected that realignment would reduce prison spending by $1.4 billion this fiscal year and that about two-thirds of that savings would be passed on to counties to cover the costs of their new charges. Instead, the state's increased costs for private prison space and the compensation it pays out for county jails, prosecutors and probation departments adds up to about $2 billion a year more for corrections than when Brown regained office.

Without stemming the flow of prisoners into the system, the problems created by crowding continue.  The Little Hoover Commission, an independent state agency that investigates government operations, said in a May report that realignment simply "changed the place where the sentence is served."

One of the biggest effects of realignment is that state and local authorities are releasing inmates early. From October 2011 to June 2013, California jail releases increased by 45,000, according to state data. The biggest rise has been a doubling in the number of inmates freed before doing half their time....  Although there is no hard proof, politicians, researchers and law enforcement officials are debating whether realignment is behind a recent 8% rise in property crime, reversing years of decline.

Brown's advisors counter that freeing jail inmates is safer than releasing state prisoners. But that too is happening. Under federal orders, the state in April and May freed a total of more than 800 prisoners.

Not surprisingly, the tough-on-crime crowd over at C&C is eager to blame these less-than-positive developments on Gov. Brown and/or the democrats in the California legislature and/or the judges and Justices who declared California's overstuffed prisons to be unconstitutional.  But, notably, it was this same tough-on-crime crowd that vehemently opposed and effectively blocked efforts to create a California sentencing commission to deal proactively and smartly with these enduring problems before they became so acute that federal court intervention was required.  Here is a listing from this blog of some posts noting the debate over creating a sentencing commission in California stretching back to 2006:

Among other realities, a review of this history shows former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, pushed by police chiefs and district attorneys, initially opposed the creation of a sentencing commission in 2007.  But, by 2009, as the state's ensuring prison problems became even more acute and as consequential federal court orders became even more likely, Gov. Schwarzenegger came to recognize the desparate need for California to have an institution that could bring a data-driven "smart" approach to CJ reform in the state.  Nevertheless, continued advocacy against any commission by the tough-and-tougher crowd in California ultimately precluded (and seemingly still precludes) the creation of such an entity in California.

I do not mean to assert that all would be sunshine and roses in the challenging regulatory state of California if a sentencing commission had been created in 2007 or 2009.  But I do mean to assert that those eager to attack Gov. Brown and/or legislators who have struggled to deal with post-Plata reforms should, at the very least, acknowledge that proponents of a California sentencing commission asserted that the such a commission would have dealt better with prison challenges (and maybe even would have prevented Plata from happening).  In other words, those assailing current developments should at least explain why those who advocated commission-driving smarter policy rather than tougher politics back in 2007 or 2009 would be misguided to assert that the tough-and-tougher crowd in California is arguably most responsible for the current California mess.  

June 29, 2014 at 01:29 PM | Permalink


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The underlying false premise is that there is such a thing as a crime-free society. Bill claims that when prisons go down crime goes up but so what? The underlying question is how much peace and security does a society want to pay for? When one accepts crime as a reality and rejects a crime free society as a foolish fantasy then there are only two relevant debates: what type of crimes will be more or less tolerated and how much of these crimes will be tolerated?

In short, one can build more prisons....or one can pass less criminal laws. But if there were no criminal laws people like Bill and Kent would have to do something productive for a living and that is something dreadful to contemplate.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 29, 2014 2:51:36 PM

I want to help the lawyer. It is not hard to empty the prisons. But the lawyer has to change.

1) In jail, a bunch of people are there because they do not have $100 for bail. Make the lawyer lazy dumbass work a little harder, and try these cases immediately. If a judge is lazy, slow shuffling government parasite, fire him, get a harder working jurist, perhaps an illegal alien from Mexico. That should upgrade the quality of decisions too. Even if trained as a gardener, the illegal alien would do a better job than the lazy, dumbass lawyer, the little tyrant on the bench. Empty the jails of people without bail.

2) Over 25% of people in jails an prison are straight mental hospital patients. Their families have $100 in bail, but prefer they remain in jail as the best place for them, thanks the lawyer traitor that took over psychiatry 40 years ago, and is directly responsible for the subsequent ramapage killings and the othe r2000 murders committed by paranoid schizophrenics. Pass legislation at the federal level that would allow involuntary treatment of non-adherent patients for a year based on need, and without a hearing, then a hearing to continue it. One may shoot long lasting medication into patients once a month, and markedly drop their crime rates.

3) Crush the filthy vile feminist lawyer that destroyed the black family, and is filling 2/3 of prison beds with minority bastards. This subhuman slime is now after the white family and doing quite well, with white bastardy rates up to 40% in the last census. Black rates are at 70%. All black social pathologies will soon be visiting the white population. Immigrants, even the darkest skinned, have low crime rates, because they have low bastardy rates, and may dilute this horrible wave of crime headed our way. It is not skin color, it is feminist caused bastardy.

The jail population would be 10 to 20% what it is now, i.e. 80% lower, with much enhanced public safety. Enhance public safety and real estate values shoot up, with a jolt to the economy.

I am not welcome on C&C. So you are getting the correct answers here.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 29, 2014 3:13:49 PM


Thank you for your analysis. I believe that if there was an increase in crime in the 70-80's, it was primarily due to the politicians, those pharisees in sepulchres that contain dead men's bones, emptying the state mental hospitals at about the same time. The decrease since then is NOT due to more imprisonment, but mostly demographics, alternative entertainment availability, less environmental lead, and a myriad of other explanations and not some Freakonomics analysis by some UoC economist.

Posted by: albeed | Jun 29, 2014 7:05:32 PM

Build trust, not prisons. If. C&C was really about victims it would start here, and a sentencing commission might.

Public health nurses change lives – today and tomorrow. Nurse-Family Partnership helps at-risk, first-time mothers have healthy pregnancies, improve child health and development, and become more economically self-sufficient. Public health nurses are the backbone of Nurse-Family Partnership's success. Since the program’s beginning, nurses have been instrumental in shaping and delivering this evidence-based, community health program. Because of their specialized knowledge, the public health nurses who deliver the Nurse-Family Partnership program in their communities establish trusted relationships with young, at-risk mothers during home visits, providing guidance for the emotional, social, and physical challenges these first-time moms face as they prepare to become parents. But most importantly, Nurse-Family Partnership Nurse Home Visitors make a measurable, long-lasting difference in the lives of their clients. - See more at: http://www.nursefamilypartnership.org/nurses

Posted by: George | Jun 29, 2014 9:01:50 PM


Do you think bastardy is a factor in crime? Do you think excellence in public health nursing, a feminist, government make work rent seeking enterprise, can replace the effect on poverty and crime of not having a father? Or do you think skin melanin is a factor? Very dark immigrants with intact families have rates of poverty and crime lower than those of whites. Their statistics rebut all left wing and racist arguments. They support proposal three, crush the feminist lawyer traitor.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 29, 2014 9:50:46 PM

S.C., the link includes the word "family" and can you find anything that requires moms be single? Either way it's not the baby's fault if daddy is gone if he is. Check the site and the studies. It works.

And why do you assume nurses cannot be family values conservative?

Posted by: George | Jun 29, 2014 10:58:28 PM

George. Most of their customers are single mothers. If they were married, they would be middle class, would no longer need services, and the nurses would lose their jobs. There is an inherent conflict of interest. It has to go unspoken.

If one of these nurses would suggest to one of the hussies, why don't you slow down on the spawning of little savages with criminals, all with different fathers? Take a break, try some birth control.

What would happen? She would be fired, as offensive to the hussy, a racist, a promoter of genocide, etc. Why? Because if the hussy slows down the spitting out of little fatherless savages, she would threaten the need for the program.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 30, 2014 12:01:31 AM

George. These nurses are also heartless hypocrites. When it comes to themselves and their daughters, I am betting most are married, are not making bastards, and would not tolerate bastardy in their daughters.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 30, 2014 12:04:32 AM

S.c., let's make a bet.

I bet I can find more studies backing the Nurse Family Partnership for at risk mothers than you can find for your posiition.

If I win, you can never post about "rent seeking" here again. If you win I can never post about the nursing program again. Everyone else is probably sick of both of them and will hope we both somehow lose.


Here is fair warning that you will lose.

Posted by: George | Jun 30, 2014 2:09:36 AM

George. No bet, because it would be an intellectual slaughter, with tiny, clinically meaningless differences from the nursing program vs established social science for the past 50 years. You are saying government sponsored studies support the efficacy of a government sponsored program? How about cigarette company studies showing cigarettes are good for the health (they prevent Alzheimer's, for example)? Or Coke sponsored studies show drinking Coke is good for you (improving attention span, for example)?

Start here.


I am addressing the explanation for the six fold racial disparity in violent crime, especially murder. Which of the studies you cited addresses that risk?

Here is an article rebutting that correlation, with single parent households rising, and violent crime rates falling.


The government is covering up violent crime. War advances in trauma care have turned many murders into attempted murder. But mostly the Democratic Party politician is forcing the police into lying about violent crime.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 30, 2014 5:30:07 AM

The sole reason for the repetitious nature of my comments is that the posts relentlessly repeat the message that we should be soft on crime and hard on victims, the same fully rebutted propaganda is just repeated over and over and over again by the lawyer. Every single post has that underlying message, like an NPR story. Even the gardening or cooking shows on that lying, left wing propaganda outlet bash corporations and our American way of life. Why on earth would anyone advocate that position? Money and power have to be the only explanations.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 30, 2014 5:38:20 AM

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