CA Early Release of Prisoners & The Abdication of Responsibility

Recently, the Legislature passed a package of budget revisions to help California resolve its $26 billion budget crisis. At the time lawmakers closed the massive deficit, they agreed to cut $1.2 billion from the prison system without saying how to do it.

Capitol Weekly reports, “Legislative Democrats will push for a commission to create a new system for prison sentences as part of Democrats’ prison overhaul plan, which will be voted on the floor of both houses Thursday. 

As part of the plan being discusssed, the Legislature would release or divert from state prisons 27,000 inmates in the current fiscal year and another 10,000 in the fiscal year that begins next July.

Nothing says abdication of responsibility quite like forcing a plan to release 27,000 dangerous criminals before they have completed their sentences as their approach to cut corrections spending.

Liberals in Sacramento claim that the only people who will be released are low-risk offenders, and those convicted of non-serious or non-violent crimes, but this should give no comfort to parents and families throughout California. No euphemism can hide what these criminals really are. “Low-risk inmates” are not “low-risk” at all — they are inmates who have been incarcerated for crimes not considered “serious” or “violent.”

When you look at some of the crimes that are considered non-serious and non-violent, you will see that some very dangerous individuals could be turned loose if they have their way. Human trafficking, injurious child abuse, stalking and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction are just a few of the crimes considered non-serious or non-violent.

We know that the real impact of early release on our region and our state will not be reducing the budget, but causing more innocent people to become victims of crime.

Consider reports by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation, and other groups who study prison populations that found that the average prisoner on early release committed at least 13 new crimes before being taken back into custody. Recently the California District Attorneys Association sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that reducing criminal sentences to help balance the state’s budget will lead to rising crime rates.

So what can be done to cut $1.2 billion from the corrections budget? Target the bloated prison bureaucracy and reduce unnecessarily high medical costs. The cost of prison bureaucracy has increased 105 percent in the last three years. California pays over $46,000 per inmate! Compare this to Texas’ yearly inmate cost of $18,031. One would assume our prisons are bursting at the seams, but our state inmate population was relatively flat during this three-year span. 

From 1997 to 2008, health medical care costs rose 325 percent. Inmates should not receive a premium health care package while so many others scrape together money to pay for their own health care, or have no health coverage at all.

Early release is not a responsible budget solution.  The first responsibility of Government is the public safety of its citizenry.  The call for early release of inmates is nothing more than an abdication of responsibility by those who support the plan and a slap in the face of all law abiding Californians. 


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