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The Conversation: How to handle California's prison population


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


Comments () | Archives (4)

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The Darkside

If California would isolate and mandate the gang-members from the other average criminals when they lock these guys up I'd say maybe? But since they throw the guppies in the same shark infested waters with the sharks. I say NOT!!!! The state released some rat from jail last year in my neighborhood and from the way he bragged he just got out the same day and tried to rob a guy who sold tacos and he told the guy he just got out of jail too and so I tries to rob the guys who sell dope right down the street from the taco man right out in broad daylight!!! And with a gun he stands right in the middle of these guys who also have guns pointed at...Him! And so to it turned into a Mexican stand off and he walked away.

And so I guess California wants to save money and overcrowding buy letting these guys out so they could solve the overcrowding on our streets???
The people have allowed Rapist, Murders, Child Molestors, Con Artist etc..by to be released time and enough is enough! Are ya mad? Are ya mad enough to demand change??? Then call your legislators and demand that these gang-members remain behind bars and you will not be blackmailed in to higher taxes!!!

Trust there are plenty of closed military bases and or ghost towns all across America that could house and keep these people away from those of us who want peace on the streets and at minimum to zero cost to the taxpayer so the state and federal government can keep their lame excuses.

If a national insurrection were to occur in this country do you think the local, state and federal government would have a problem with overcrowding?

I have tried to put myself in the place of a few guys who make errors in judgment and I truly have compassion for those who want to change BUT California did not even try to separate the truly evil from the border-liners and until that mentality is flushed out of the border-liners they cannot and should not be released.

Truth be told this is a glaring example that it's long overdue for a massive recall election of of all branches of government so we can solve the overcrowding of our broken legislation system.


we should of legalized marijuana.
we could release the pot smokers, dealers, mentally handicapped etc...
we need tax credits to hire offenders--ex cons have virtually no chance to get a job so being jailed again is almost a foregone conclusion.
pot smokers could be hired too as they have no chance with drug tests.

its used to be if you did your time--you could be hired
thats not true anymore

jail is now a business---and business wants them in jail--its money

michele stockton

anyone who has someone in prison should question the DA for the time given. The judges in the system don't make any desisions it's all on the DA's trying to climg the ladder of a corput system


i think we must also stop overlooking inmates serving sentences of 7-life, 15-life and 25-life who have served many many years beyond the minimum time for which they should be considered eligible for parole. Many have been in fact found suitable for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings/Prison Terms yet the decisions are being reversed by the Gov's office of Legal Affairs without them ever interviewing the inmates personally or sitting face to face with them like the Board does. This has got to change. If the Board finds them suitable, the decision should stand. Afterall, if the Board doesn't find an individual suitable, that decision stands.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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