The prison dilemma

One of the problems with California’s prison overpopulation is the high rate of recidivism among prisoners. This factor must become part of the solution to this issue.

After a long judicial battle, the courts ordered Governor Brown to release 9,600 prisoners in order to decrease the prison population to 110,000, or to 137.5% of capacity. The judges suggested the release of the least dangerous inmates.

Brown has responded with a proposal to expand prison space. His plan calls for investing $315 million in one year and $700 million—from the state’s reserve fund—to send inmates to private prisons and local jails.

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg has an alternative solution. He is proposing to hold the almost 10,000 prisoners for three additional years, while giving counties $200 million to expand anti-drug and mental health treatment programs—both of which are key to decreasing repeat offenders.

To make this plan happen, the courts would need to agree to give California a three-year respite to implement the reforms. The way to achieve this is settling with the plaintiffs that filed suit against California for the inhumane conditions created by prison overcrowding.

We believe that Steinberg’s proposal is the one that best responds to the needs of our state. However, whether the current deadlines can be postponed remains to be seen. In addition, people must get over the idea that negotiating to stretch the deadlines is equivalent to surrendering to prisoners and allowing them to set the rules.

Brown’s confrontational stance toward the courts will only lead to spending more money to warehouse prisoners. This is a good opportunity that should not be wasted, allowing our state to make deeper changes to the penitentiary system.