California prison populations are overflowing and the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on this issue and indicated that California must reduce its prison population to 137.5% of capacity. Governor Jerry Brown sought to address prison inmate populations through realignment. Through realignment, recidivist criminals with relatively small crimes aren’t sent back to prison, they’re sent instead to the county jail. As to how well realignment has worked? Well, that’s a mixed bag. Sure, for now it has served to reduce prison populations. What it has not done is address the issues of overcrowding directly.
If you listened to many of the prosecutors during the time of the proposed realignment, they indicated that they would simply get around the law by overcharging crimes so people would go to prison, rather than the county lockup. In response, some judges have come out and said that they would be vigilant to the issues of overcharging and wouldn’t permit it to happen. Regardless, Brown’s realignment issue seems to have had some success in reducing prison populations. One of the ways it has reduced populations is that for awhile there the process of violating a parolee was as clear as mud. It created an issue for probation & parole officers and fugitive task forces across the state because in realignment there was the underlying issue of the authority to violate and send someone back to prison.
For awhile there, Brown was playing the shell game but the shell game was called for what it was and corrected.
Now that these issues have been largely cleared up by legislation, we would expect that prison populations might go back up. Meanwhile, Governor Brown & co have gone back to court indicating that they should have the right to house more than 137.5% of capacity and be set free of federal oversight.
Apparently, no one in California government cares for Kelso’s spending habits as the prison receiver. We object to him being classified as an AOC employee.
Enter proposition 36 – Three strikes reform.
As propositions go, there is some good and not so good about prop 36. The not so good is that it does not apply evenly to all previous violent and serious crimes and as such, it was drafted as a way to allay the emotions surrounding some previously committed serious crimes. What it does do is address the recidivist that was convicted of stealing a loaf of bread and sentenced to 25 years to life by permitting these people to be re-sentenced to punishment more in alignment with the crime, being two times the normal sentence. That’s another issue we have with prop 36 is that it appears to impede on judicial discretion in that regards. If it does, we think that a judge should have the judicial discretion to sentence appropriately as circumstances might warrant to something “up to” twice the normal sentence. It also spells out that the 3rd strike must be a violent or serious felony and not just any old seemingly petty crime. Jut as some people choose to commit blue suicide, older recidivists know where they can get 3 square a day, a roof their head and free medical and know that right now, it might be one loaf of bread away.
Enacting proposition 36 would save Californian’s an estimated hundred million dollars per year according to the legislative analysts office and result in lower prison populations and that is partly why we strongly support prop 36. The other reason we support prop 36 is because it is a far better alternative than the morass of sending someone to prison for life over stealing a loaf of bread.
- Santa Clara County DA to seek shorter Three Strikes Law sentences (mercurynews.com)
- Voters have chance to lower prison, court spending, reports say (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Prison-crowding relief plan behind schedule (abclocal.go.com)
- California voters to have say on taxes, state budgeting process, crime and justice (mercurynews.com)
- California’s gradual retreat from capital punishment | Sadhbh Walshe (guardian.co.uk)
- What’s ahead for California’s prison crisis? (acslaw.org)
- California corrections department listens to suggestions on how to improve rehabilitation programs (mercurynews.com)
- State realignment report: 38,000 felons under local supervision, fewer failing to report to probation (redding.com)
- California prisons may not meet standards of court order to reduce population (jurist.org)
- California prisons to stay tortuously overcrowded (rt.com)