Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

California's prisons: A disaster in the making

Prison

Well, we're still here. No Judgment Day after all.

Then again, who needs stupid predictions when we have so much of the real thing happening every day?

For example, try telling the people of tornado-devastated Joplin, Mo., that we escaped doomsday. Or the people in Alabama who were battered by deadly tornadoes last month. Or the Japanese, who are still dealing with the effects of the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Sendai in March.

Heck, there's even another volcano erupting in Iceland, once again threatening air travel as the summer travel season nears.

As hard as these things are to deal with, they are naturaldisasters. Some people, such as Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, argue that mankind is to blame for some of the recent weather-related problems, such as flooding along the Mississippi River this year. But who really knows? 

There are, however, certain disasters -- or disasters in the making -- that are man-made. And one of those hit Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must release tens of thousands of inmates to relieve overcrowding in the state's prison system.

How many must be released? From The Times' story:

State officials and lawyers for inmates differ over just how many prisoners will have to be released. In recent figures, the state said it had about 142,000 inmates behind bars, and the judges calculated the prison population would need to be reduced to about 110,000 to comply with constitutional standards.

Now, assuming that at least a good percentage of these inmates deserved to be in prison, this doesn't qualify as good news. 

Not that the ACLU didn't try to find some:

David Fathi, director of the ACLU national prison project, said "reducing the number of people in prison not only would save the state taxpayers half a billion annually, it would lead to the implementation of truly rehabilitative programs that lower recidivism rates and create safer communities."

Uh huh. 

A state that's got a huge budget shortfall is going to find funding for "truly rehabilitative programs"? And taxpayers will be happy because having lots of ex-cons on the streets will save us money?

I don't think so.

Yes, this disaster is of our own making. The prisons are overcrowded; we have ignored the problem for too long. But pretending that releasing this many prisoners can be a good thing -- that it will lead to needed reforms -– is silly. 

This is going to cause real harm to real people. Innocent people. 

And what of our leaders?  As The Times reported Sunday, they're allowing situations like the one at the Pitchess Detention Center's North Facility, which once housed 1,600 men but now holds just two.

C'mon, folks, this can't be so hard. We need to keep dangerous people locked up. 

This is one disaster we can, and should, avoid.  

ALSO:

Document: Supreme Court: Brown v. Plata decision

Former gang members don't deserve a life sentence of joblessness

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Inmates sit for dinner at the California State Prison in Lancaster. A federal overseer of the state's prison system has suggested freeing the sickest inmates as a way to cut costs. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times / June 10, 2010

 

Comments () | Archives (28)

The comments to this entry are closed.

JMPotratz

California has two choices, or does it? One, raise taxes on the rich. They're the ones with all the property so let them pay to protect it. Then, build more prisons. They're pretty costly. Two, release 40,000 prisoners, three-quarters of whom will be back in prison within a couple of years and we're back to square one. OR three. Three? Well, there is a third choise, but it would require getting over forty-five years of stupidity. Legalize drugs for grown-ups. Then release the prisoners in custody for drugs. I'll bet it's about 40,000. Cost? Zero. Violent offenders, theives, arsonists, sex offenders, and the like would still be in prison, but since the Drug War has Always been a failure why not admit it, like real grown-ups do when they make a mistake and then we can deal with drug addiction as a medical problem, and not a criminal one. And they won't go back because their crimes are no longer crimes. Easy.

jabyssal

I'm glad to hear you are willing to raise your own taxes to pay for this little expense. It is nice to know you put your money where your mouth is. Personal integrity is so hard to find.

Andrew Stigaard

Assuming that at least a good percentage of these inmates deserved to be in prison, which may be a false assumption, the chances are they were given sentences much too long. This is a problem for the state judiciary and legislature to resolve. We now need to get rid of forty percent of the state's correctional officers. The Supreme Court did us a favor.

Maggie

I say at least HALF of the prision population is because we like to lock up drug addicts And keep sex offenders alive- WHY?
I say all the sex offenders need to get the death sentence because there is NO WAY they will ever be rehibilitated!! NEVER! And I really don't think we should be paying to keep them happy and healthy!
And put those dumb druggies in rehab!

Perhaps then prison will be what is what meant to be and not such a over crowded mess!!

I hope this matter gets resolved and this government gets its head out of it's butt about important matters such as my safety and my tax dollars!

JohnR22

It's not so much that CA has ignored the problem as that they simply no longer have the money to dedicate to the problem. Years of insanse borrowing/spending on nonsense like HSR and utterly unaffordable pensions/benefits for the massive public sector unions...combined with radical environmental spending and willful destruction of the tax base have turned CA into a basket case.

I wonder how releasing 32,000 of the-worst-of-the-worst will effect the disaster known as CA? Funny thing is, I'll bet nobody even notices.

Theo Flagg

JMPotratz, is part of the Democratic culture who believes that the problem with the United States is that we need a better MIDDLE CLASS welfare system.

Obama and Democrats have convinced a large swath of the the most ignorant among us that with massive budget deficits, we can spend more (ie: on prisons), that the private sector is worse than government (even though government has demonstrated at every turn it doesn't work), and someone else (the rich) can pay for what they want (the basic math does not work).

This is an ignorant and losing argument. First, all Americans should pay taxes, the people who are not paying enough are the 40% of Americans who pay no taxes, the top 10% of tax payers pay 70% of all taxes.

More Prisons Do Not Equal Safety

Contrary to your assertion, most of the prisoners are NOT threats to the safety of society. The vast majority of prisoners have been convicted of non-violent crimes. They don't belong in prison in the first place. We lock up far too many people in this country. It's inhumane and senseless.

Locking people up is about power, not justice. It means politicians can pretend they're actually doing something effective when they're not.

Ray Magee

This is not rocket science. Charter some planes and parole the perps to DC. If the Supremes like them so much let them keep them in their neighborhoods. While we are at it, send 100,000 to DC.

Stocksthatgoup

Would you be? Could you be? Won't you be my neighbor?

harkin

The liberal values, public employee unions and illegal immigration have transformed CA from a wonderland to a sinkhole of crime, waste and political incompetence in just thirty years. Now you have the liberals trying to hang on to their power by inciting a 'tax the rich' class war. Guess what? The rich and other law-abiding, productive citizens are leaving in droves rather than staying and being made the fall guys for failed socialist policies. The CA of my youth where everyone paid their own way and society benefited from that independence is long, long gone.

KG1

"The vast majority of prisoners have been convicted of non-violent crimes. We lock up far too many people in this country. It's inhumane and senseless."
Really? Just what are you then supposed to do with someone who has broken the law? Where would justice be when someone breaks into your home while you were gone and cleans you out? No prison for the big bankers who embezzled millions from pension funds? What's your solution then? Lower the bar on what is acceptable behavior? That's just swell. Prisons were made to punish lawbreakers and to remove them from society in order to keep it safer. Releasing these animals into the public will be a disaster. Just do us all a favor and keep them in California.

Ex-californian

This is a double-bind: Release prisoners or raise taxes even more. Either way, just one more reason to get out of California.

Keep pumping those bucks into High-Speed rail.......

solar

People, you could at least look up some facts before going into the "legalize drugs" screed or "prisoners aren't violent" fantasies. In 2009 California prisons had jurisdiction over 168K prisoners. 93,000 were locked up because of crimes against persons (28,000 murderers!), 32K for property crimes and only 28K for drugs. Of course, most of the druggies were jailed for sale or manufacture, not possession.

Yes, most prisoners are dangerous and are merely repeat offenders waiting to happen.

Rick

Wanted for multiple murder: Anthony Kennedy. Liberals like Kennedy want chaos, because it justifies a totalitarian state. That's why liberals import, encourage, subsidize, reward, and incentivize degeneracy, murder, and mayhem. Jerry Brown immediately used the release of 46,000 murderers to scare people into paying higher taxes. The real crime here is totalitarian socialism. People like Jerry Brown and Anthony Kennedy should be locked up.

Rick

There are no non-violent offenders in the state prisons. In order to serve prison time, you have to commit several violent felonies. It is impossible to get prison time unless you commit multiple burglaries, robberies, assaults, rapes, murders, etc. And don't tell me that burglary is a non-violent crime.

Gliderpilot

California could save money and reduce the crime rate by farming out prisoners to foreign countries.

Scott

I think California is doing all the right things; Letting the criminals out of jail. Restricting the rights of Law abidding citizens to own or carry a firearm or self protection. Imediate releasing of "undocumented" criminals from south of the border. Spending billions a year on liberal pet projects with no real public benefit. Paying life guards 250K a year, ect... Good Job Libtards hope that keeps working out for ya.

TheOldMan

Let's start with any prisoner who is an illegal alien. Send them back to their country of origin. Then release any prisoner convicted of personal drug use as long as they are not also convicted of a violent crime. Then count how many are left.

octavian

What sort of silly man believes that prisoners - whether released or incarcerated - are going to receive "truly rehabilitative programs"?

No one can rehabilitate anyone, for true rehabilitation requires an internal change of values that can be initiated only by the person involved. And, in any event, many of these men have value system so antithetical to that of US society that they need habilitation.

All this release will do is to dump thousands of criminals back into a society. They will return to lives of crime, and all will be the looser, especially them.

Schroedinger's Parakeet

Most people in prison are there for non-violent drug offenses. Letting these folks out is going isn't going to cause grave harm.

Josh Epstein

Unconventional Proposal: Instead of incarceration with no productivity, sentence them to hard labor and have them build the HSR. Would save money across the board.

papagrump

It really says something about our society when we run out of prison room. We need to get rid of a lot of people in prison (deportation) and decriminalize the lesser offenses such as drug use, prostitution, and any other personal choice type offense that fits in the vice category.

Anon

I don't like the idea of letting anyone out early, violent offenders in particular, but the state is just going to have to add capacity if it wants to keep everyone locked up. The bar for a prison to pass constitutional muster is actually quite low; that the court would issue this ruling makes me think that conditions in California's prisons must be horrific.

So Cal Mike

Government gets people killed, destroys jobs and ruins economies yet NEVER gets blamed.

Why are WE to blame because of the actions of members of the US Supreme Court?? They are the ones putting dangerous inmates on the streets.

If I were a family member of someone murdered by this poison, I would take my vengeance out on the individuals responsible.

SamAdams25

You folks just refuse to put the shovel down. Just like NY and Ill., you keep right on electing "progressives" (Socialists) who continue to make your problems worse.

How's it looking for crops in the valley this year with no water? What's gas there now, $5/gal.? How many companies have left and taken the jobs with them this year already? How's that boycott of Arizona working for you? How's that Sanctuary City thing working?

You can't build any more prisons because nobody will lend you the money. Your credit rating is shot. You can't attract business with your high taxes and forced unionization. If you raise taxes on "the rich", they will leave. Just ask NY. Take a good look at Detroit to see your future.

You folks would do well to heed the wisdom of Henny Youngman:
"Doc, it hurts when I do this." (Doc)"Then don't do that."

leftandproud

Time to tax the rich who got us into this mess. Also, most criminals are there for drugs, so releasing them won't be a problem. It's about time we start having a fair tax system make the rich pay their fair share!

Agent3056

As a Law Enforcement Agent for over 25 years, I really don't believe that anyone convicted of a Penal Code violation should go without some form of punishment. But After all of these years, I think we have grown acustom to punishing all folks with the same whip: VERY expensive prison, and county jail cells. Two things are crystal clear, 1. It is very very costly, 2. It does not prevent reoffending. Matter of fact thanks to the availability of cell phones in our secure and costly lock ups, crimes continue while some are locked up. So we need to become smarter as to how we deal with these folks. That means alternatives to prison, that protect the public and assist the inmate in trying to get their lives together. Hell we can send a drug dealer to Berkley for a year cheaper than a State Prison. what is wrong with this picture?

u89n2xk

All, keep your eye on the ball ... "Shocking data from GAO report - of 142,000 prisoners, 102,795 are criminal illegal aliens"

Really. 2/3 of these prisoners are illegal 'immigrants' - who are bringing their way of life to us. Other good news: 2/3 of the inmates are repeat offenders.

Our criminal justice system is too lenient, and our borders too porous. Texas pays 1/3 per prisoner that we do - so they have plenty of money to buils more prisons. They also have a lower 'frequent traveler' rate.

It is all mental - not financial. First, we boot-out our 30 year liberal leadership - with their uniion pandering and illegal kissing - and then we send illegals who cave committed crimes to Mexican prisons - which I am sure, will be much better.

We need to man-up, and quit listening to the shills and panderers - who have run this state down - before it is too late.

So next time you hear BO braying about 'immigrants building America' - know that he is right.

Money for nothing - illegals free!
I want my Liberal-ease!


Connect

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video


Categories


Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »

Archives
 


About the Bloggers
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.



In Case You Missed It...