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The Conversation: How to handle California's prison population

November 30, 2010 |  2:47 pm


It'll likely be months before the Supreme Court comes to a decision on how to handle California's prison system,  where overcrowding deprives inmates of healthcare and social services that would prepare them for reintegration into society. For now, what a few opinionators are saying.

Bad for prisoners, bad for public safety

"If the Supreme Court removes that pressure by overturning the three-judge panel's order, it wouldn't just be bad for prisoners, who are dying from inadequate medical care at the rate of one every eight days. It would be bad for public safety. Warehousing inmates in overcrowded spaces devoid of job or drug programs but packed with hardened gangsters makes them more likely to reoffend when they're released."

-- Los Angeles Times Editorial

More costly to California

"The sudden release of 40,000 unemployed convicts into California's struggling economy may be more costly than advertised. In fact, the costs of re-arrest, court processing, and repeat incarceration could result in more expense than benefit. Those who regard the California prisoner release program as a remedy to prison overcrowding often use the term "minor offender." It pains me to admit this, but my 27-year-old nephew (whom I'll call Jake) is one such "minor offender." Jake was released early from jail, and from probation, and from official supervision altogether. Yet, California Department of Corrections recidivism statistics say that Jake has a 71.5 percent chance of returning to jail. We can only hope."

-– Yahoo! News op-ed

Must stop turning nonviolent offenders into hardened criminals

"For several decades, the passage of tough laws and long sentences has created an illusion in the public's mind that public safety is best served when we treat all offenders pretty much the same way: arrest, convict, imprison, parole. …

"What the numbers say loud and clear, however, is that most nonviolent offenders are learning the wrong lesson … are becoming better and more hardened criminals during their prison stays."

-- Sacramento Bee editorial quoting Kamala Harris' book "Smart on Crime"

-- Alexandra Le Tellier


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Photo: Inmates at dinner at the California State Prison-Lancaster, on June 10, 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

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