As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, December 22, 2006

CA Prisons: "Too Much Brick and Mortar"

So the Governor's borrow-and-build solution to the current prison crisis yielded a surprising couple of paragraphs from the chief Democratic legislator on the committee that would oversee it. I don't know what to make of Gloria Romero's statement:

Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), a longtime advocate of expanded rehabilitation programs in the state prison system and chairwoman of a legislative committee that oversees corrections, stood with the governor as he unveiled his proposal. Romero said she was optimistic that Schwarzenegger's plan would help foster the kind of reforms she seeks.

"We have historically paid little attention to what happens after [inmates] get that $200 and the bus ticket out," she said. "We will never merely build ourselves out of this problem."

Little of the new spending the governor is proposing would be used for rehabilitation.

Why exactly is she rolling over on this one? The proposal accomplishes the opposite of her goals.

In fact, it devotes most of its spending to more beds, and not rehabilitation and reform. In addition, the Governor will set up a 17-member sentencing commission consisting of the Attorney General, legislators, citizens groups, the corrections secretary and a judge. Their ostensible directive is to review sentencing guidelines, but the Governor has already made clear that three-strikes is off the table, and look what they'll be spending their time on in the midst of a time where we may face a cap on inmates:

Commissioners would spend their first year examining whether the state’s mandatory three-year parole period could be safely shortened for some ex-convicts. The governor is also proposing an $11 billion building program to add space for thousands of additional inmates and changes to the state parole system.

Shouldn't we be looking at the sentences of the people actually GOING TO JAIL to solve the problem of too many people in jail? Wouldn't that be the smart thing to do in the first year?

I still believe that you will not build your way into a solution on prison reform, and any proposal that primarily borrows money to sink it into more brick and mortar ends up making some people rich, more people incarcerated, and the same problem in five years. The recidivism rate in California is 70%, the worst in the nation. The Governor described this as "unacceptable" but gave no step to actually reducing that rate other than giving the recidivists a better place to sleep when they come back.