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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maybe The 2019 Sentencing Commission Bill Will Pass...

Brian Leubitz says what's needed to be said about the prison "reform" bill that the Assembly has gutted and will vote on Monday. You can see that bill here. Actually this is now a parole reform bill, and on that measure it's not bad. It ends blanket supervision and focuses resources on the worst offenders. It might even alter the circumstances that has made California alone among all states where the parole system has become nothing more than a revolving door back to jail.

But the bill removes the independent sentencing commission that would actually review and make sensible recommendations on our out-of-control sentencing process, which in the end is the only way to truly get a handle on the prison crisis. Here's Brian:

Without the sentencing commission this bill isn't worth the pixels on your screen. It won't fix the prisons. It won't create any substantive change. It will merely kick the can down the road. In order for this bill to be worthwhile, it MUST have a sentencing commission with teeth. A sentencing commission that allows policy makers who understand public safety to make the decisions, not political hacks trying to make their way to the next job. Again, if it can play in Kansas, it can happen here. The only thing missing here are a few legislators with courage.

In other words, this bill misses the opportunity presented by the budget challenges. Frankly, we only have so many cracks at this apple, and this is the perfect storm for a sentencing commission: A Republican Governor providing some cover, a budget mess requiring cost savings, and a federal court order hanging over our heads. The time is now. Like Arnold and his crew are using the mess to shock doctrine the state, we should use this mess to fix the state.

The Democrats in the Assembly who are seeking higher office do not have the courage of their convictions. Several of them have voted for a sentencing commission in the past, enough for such a bill to pass the Assembly in 2007, but they don't want to this time because they fear attack mailers. It's this kind of poor excuse for leadership that has forced federal judges to step in where the legislature would not and demand justice for those in the system whose Constitutional rights are being violated. And since the judges cannot create a sentencing commission or attack the root cause of the problem, and will probably just mass release the amount of prisoners they deem necessary (this bill still falls woefully short of their order), we'll be back here before long.

Maybe then the Assembly can recognize that there's a right and wrong way to go about this. But of course, nobody currently in the Assembly will have to make that decision, thanks to term limits.

The words "broken government" come to mind.

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