New Governor Proposes Radical Reforms to the Prison System

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prison-reformIn what the San Jose Mercury News is calling “the most sweeping criminal justice overhaul in state history,” Governor Jerry Brown is proposing the elimination of the youth prison system, along with an end to prison terms for thousands of convicts who are in prison for relatively minor crimes.  Those individuals would be moved to county jails.

According to the Governor’s budget, such a move would save the state nearly half a million next year, $1.4 billion annually on an ongoing basis, while at the same time dealing with the critical prison overcrowding and prison reform issues.

The Governor’s plan is responsive to the building consensus among criminologists, justice advocates and finance experts who have been advocating a reduction of the prison population, believing that it could also produce enhanced public safety by moving relatively low-level inmates closer to their families and giving them access to better treatment programs.

The Governor this week argued that local government is in a better position to end “the revolving door of the corrections systems.”

Apparently a number of criminal justice experts agree.

Joan Petersilia, a Stanford University criminologist, told the Mercury News this week, “This is just an incredibly massive shift for a state system that was sending everybody and their brother to prison.”

But she offered widely-echoed caution: “We shouldn’t be naive and think we can do this on the cheap — these offenders have serious needs.”

“Our recidivism rate is high. Lockdowns are above the national average. The Supreme Court is breathing down our back,” the Governor said Monday. “It’s definitely an important area for reform and reduction.”

The Governor added that, Legislators, district attorneys, sheriffs, police chiefs, probation officers and victims’ advocates all have agendas,

Governor Brown said, “Each one can derail well-intentioned reform.” The issue is “full of competing claims and perspectives. Therefore, you have to do it surgically and with a great deal of sophistication.”

Seven years ago, the Ella Baker Center launched their Books Not Bars campaign, calling for closing California’s youth prisons.

As they wrote this week, “People laughed in our faces. Literally. Even reformers, who agreed in private, thought we were foolish to call for shuttering the largest set of youth prisons in the Country.”

They argued at the time that “by closing youth prisons we could open real opportunities for California’s youth.”

On Wednesday they wrote, “the mere fact that Governor Brown’s budget includes the closing of the DJJ [Division of Juvenile Justice] prisons means that the tide has turned- politicians are starting to realize what our families have known for years — dumping youth in prisons doesn’t make us safer.  And we hope this turning tide will also lead California to examine its relationship to all prisons, and break our addiction to lock ‘em up policies that do little to invest in people or increase public safety.”

They continued, “Whether this budget cycle is the nail in the coffin for the notorious  DJJ, or it happens next year or the year after that, this is a historic moment in our work and for California.”

The Drug Policy Alliance has also endorsed the Governor’s proposal.  They argue that it reverses a historic trend toward sending minor offenders to state prison that was “part of the tough on crime insanity that got us mass incarceration in the U.S.,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Nobody benefits by sending a shoplifter to state prison,” Ms. Dooley-Sammuli added.

About 10,000 people are in California state prison for drug possession and this proposal shift affects  people incarcerated for the simple possession of drugs, among other petty offenses.”They’re not people convicted of possession less than an ounce of pot, which is an infraction,” the DPA stated.

“He’s not talking about potheads,” said Ms. Dooley-Sammuli. “But they do include some of the 17,000 or so arrested for sale or growing recreational pot in California, which can get up to four years in prison.”

“An uncounted number of parole violators are going back in for smoking a joint, she said, though the state doesn’t keep statistics on it. California’s recidivism ranks among the highest in the nation at about 71 percent. Roughly 10,000 people enter and exit state prison each month, and most are serving time for parole violations,” the DPA said.

However, not everyone is celebrating the much-needed reform to the prison system. 

The Woodland Daily Democrat reports that Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto is concerned that if adult convicts are released to Yolo County, Monroe Detention Center would be packed well beyond capacity.

“We don’t have the facility to handle it,” Prieto told the Daily Democrat.

The paper reports, “The county jail, which holds 450 inmates, could be asked to hold up to 800 inmates. He said the jail is at capacity all the time.  Unless Yolo County were to get a new facility, which Prieto said is unlikely, it’s not going to work.”

However, as we have mentioned before, we lack general sympathy regarding capacity issues in the local jail or even the state prison system because we have basically put a lot of people into incarceration for crimes that would be best treated outside of the correctional system.

The local DA is going to have to start accepting the fact that he can no longer charge every single thing as a crime – no matter how minor.  It may force greater discretion.  Or he may simply choose to try to force an overcrowding crisis and hope that he can blackmail the legislature into opposing the reforms.

At some point, we need to recognize that our drugs laws are going to fiscally bankrupt us.  Maybe this initiative by the Governor will finally put pressure on law enforcement to stop opposing every drug reform plan that comes along and stop supporting every “lock-’em up and throw away the key” proposal that gets put onto the ballot.

I completely agree with Professor Petersilia, that we need not to be naive and believe that we can do this on the cheap.  Overall, we can save money for the judicial and correctional system by reforming the laws, but at times that means we need to invest money into the front end to have better treatment options and rehabilitation programs.

Nevertheless, while some of these reforms are undoubtedly doomed, the very fact that the Governor is putting them on the table makes them promising.  Reform has a far greater chance of being approved under the guise of a fiscal crisis.

Governor Brown certainly is not taking the safe route to his Governership, and California may be better for it.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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44 thoughts on “New Governor Proposes Radical Reforms to the Prison System”

  1. Dr. Wu

    I am sympathetic to much of what David says, but the main takeaway for me here is that Jerry is shifting more and more on to local government backs while at the same time people do not want to pay more taxes. The end result is going to be that County and City governments will be overwhelmed at a time when most are already in poor financial shape.

    I support what our governor is doing but I’m also worried that many local governments will not be up to all of their new responsibilities and we will see a lot of poorly conceived and underfunded programs–at least initially.

    Our prison system grossly misallocates resources in so many ways. Let’s hope this pushes them in the right direction, but I think its very unlikely that the social services that David advocates for will be forthcoming.

  2. Mind_hunter53

    There appears to be a belief that many people who have committed petty crimes are incarcerated in California prisons. That is not the case, other than if they have repeatedly done the same thing, violated probation, and failed local level intervention treatment and monitoring programs. In other words, they are habitual offenders. Diverting them to the county level will not deter these offenders, who are frequently crime machines. Relative to drug offenses, the individuals who are in prison are those who manufacture, possess quantities for sale, habitual parole violators who test dirty over and over, and sex offenders who, while in the community, violate applicable registration and and other sex offender specific laws. Do people believe we will be safer when these individuals are diverted to local level intervention?

  3. David M. Greenwald

    In the past year just covering Yolo County, I have seen examples of people doing multiple years in prison for things like bounced checks, stealing cheese, and stealing chinese food. Did all of these individuals commit multiple crimes, yes they did. But does that really change the level of danger they pose. In Yolo county they automatically add a felony transportation charge to a felony possession charge. Why is the recidivism rate in California so high – much higher than other states in the nation? We are obviously doing something wrong here.

    I understand Dr. Wu’s concern, but on the other hand, push the cases back into Yolo will force Yolo to have to adapt their policies on charging and incarceration.

  4. Fight Against Injustice

    This brings up a question I have had for a long time. Can the cost of jailing people locally be avoided by sending them to state prisons? I think I remember reading that if the sentence is more than 3-4 years, the person is sent to a state prison. If this is true, then maybe that is another incentive for the DA to:

    1. Stacks up charges
    2. Push for felony charges when they normally would be misdemeanors
    3. Ask for maximum sentencing

    This incentive would explain why Reisig pushes the cases of a cheese stealer, a bad check writer and a chinese food stealer to felonies–so he looks tough on crime, but doesn’t have to pay for their incarceration.

  5. biddlin

    Another case where we make a bitter choice. We could find some savings in decriminalization of pot and redirecting some cases back to the municipalities, but at some point we must decide whether we would rather punish one generation or educate the next? A few years ago a friend of mine was imprisoned for not informing on her friends to whom she allegedly supplied marijuana. The conditions of her incarceration were Draconian, by any standard of decency, resulting , ultimately, in her death from denial of medical treatment. I never forget that I hold my share of responsibility for how my society treats the least and even the worst among us.

  6. Mr.Toad

    We have come full circle with Jerry Brown. In the 70’s the Republicans started this whole hard line on crime as part of a campaign to beat Brown in 78. It dove tailed perfectly with his anti-capital punishment philosophy. Since then the Republicans have been running the table with ever increasing levels of incarceration because nobody wants to say society should be vulnerable to violent predators. But now Brown has a second chance and by saying he wants to push this down to the counties he will reverse the trend and force the counties to cut loose the low level offenders, who, any cost benefit analysis would determine should not be locked up at public expense. Instead of saying we should set them free he is taking a more nuanced approach but beneath it all he is saying we should set them free without trying to touch that third rail of politics today, the pardon.

  7. Rifkin

    [i]”In the past year just covering Yolo County, I have seen examples of people doing multiple years in prison for things like bounced checks, stealing cheese, and stealing Chinese food.”[/i]

    It would be interesting if, with each case that comes before the District Attorney or a judge enacting a sentence, an independent auditor were called in to conduct a cost/benefit analysis of the punishment.

    When you consider that it costs the taxpayers around $45,000 per year to house an inmate in state prison–less than half of that cost* is to pay the overpaid prison guards–it is probably worth asking whether some different type of punishment might bring a greater net benefit to our society in place of say locking up a thief for 10 years, paying substantial attorney fees and for his parole agent and so on.

    My belief is that prison is an important part of the penal system, an important part of sending the message that crime does not pay. But I have strong doubts about what net good it does to hold people for very long sentences, unless they are irredeemable psychopaths or sociopaths. And if someone is going to serve a 20 year or longer sentence, I see no reason why we should not outsource his incarceration to a cheap contractor (private or public in another state or out of the U.S.). As long as the prisoner’s civil rights are maintained, it makes no sense to me why we have to place him in the most expensive prison system in the world.

    For those who don’t need to be locked up for decades, I think we need to figure out cost-effective, creative ways to mix in punishments of exile, hard-labor, shame and less expensive methods of denying freedom to criminals** without locking them up.

    *One big expense is the cost of medical care.
    **One example is using monitored ankle bracelets ([url]http://www.cnjonline.com/articles/county-39586-inmate-program.html[/url]).

  8. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “In what the San Jose Mercury News is calling “the most sweeping criminal justice overhaul in state history,” Governor Jerry Brown is proposing the elimination of the youth prison system, along with an end to prison terms for thousands of convicts who are in prison for relatively minor crimes. Those individuals would be moved to county jails.”

    Is Brown going to give the county jails funding to house the new prisoners? If not, he is just shoving state responsibilities onto cash strapped counties. And if the youth prison system is done away with, what is to be done with juvenile delinquents – put them in adult jail? Or just let them go – which will almost certainly result in an escalation in crime…look at the death of Andrew Mockus. One of the defendants involved in his murder was let go w/o punishment, only to kill again near Sunrise Mall…

    dmg: “The paper reports, “The county jail, which holds 450 inmates, could be asked to hold up to 800 inmates. He said the jail is at capacity all the time. Unless Yolo County were to get a new facility, which Prieto said is unlikely, it’s not going to work.””

    Sheriff Prieto makes a very valid point here – shoving state responsibilities onto the counties, w/o the commensurate resources to go w it, just doesn’t make sense…

    dmg: “However, as we have mentioned before, we lack general sympathy regarding capacity issues in the local jail or even the state prison system because we have basically put a lot of people into incarceration for crimes that would be best treated outside of the correctional system.”

    Then change the law FIRST, before handing over responsibility to the counties. Otherwise this solution makes no sense…

    dmg: “At some point, we need to recognize that our drugs laws are going to fiscally bankrupt us. Maybe this initiative by the Governor will finally put pressure on law enforcement to stop opposing every drug reform plan that comes along and stop supporting every “lock-’em up and throw away the key” proposal that gets put onto the ballot.

    Then why doesn’t the governor propose drug enforcement reform? That does not appear to be what he is proposing. Instead he just seems ready to shift state responsibility onto counties that cannot afford to take on any more responsibilities than the ones they already have…

    dmg: “Governor Brown certainly is not taking the safe route to his Governership, and California may be better for it.”

    Oh no? Seems to me Brown is merely shifting responsibility, w/o real reform…

    dmg: “An uncounted number of parole violators are going back in for smoking a joint, she said, though the state doesn’t keep statistics on it.”

    Right, the state does not keep statistics, so there is no way of knowing whether very many parole violators are going back for smoking a joint…

    dmg: “I completely agree with Professor Petersilia, that we need not to be naive and believe that we can do this on the cheap. Overall, we can save money for the judicial and correctional system by reforming the laws, but at times that means we need to invest money into the front end to have better treatment options and rehabilitation programs.”

    And how do you suggest we pay for rehab programs?

  9. E Roberts Musser

    Dr. Wu: “I am sympathetic to much of what David says, but the main takeaway for me here is that Jerry is shifting more and more on to local government backs while at the same time people do not want to pay more taxes.”

    It is not necessarily an issue of whether people “want” to pay more taxes – many cannot. They have lost jobs, are on furlough, their incomes have dropped, they are not getting COLAs – but the ever increasing bills still have to be paid.

    dmg: “In the past year just covering Yolo County, I have seen examples of people doing multiple years in prison for things like bounced checks, stealing cheese, and stealing chinese food. Did all of these individuals commit multiple crimes, yes they did. But does that really change the level of danger they pose.”

    You admit these are serial offenders. If you don’t lock them up, then what? Allow them to continue stealing? Is that the solution you are offering? Just let the stores put up w unabated/unchecked shoplifting? And guess who pays for that? The customers – who bear the costs in higher prices for goods, as shoplifters get goods for free.

    dmg: “I understand Dr. Wu’s concern, but on the other hand, push the cases back into Yolo will force Yolo to have to adapt their policies on charging and incarceration.”

    And I can almost guarantee this solution will result in the cessation of charging petty crimes. As a result, you as an honest consumer will be subject to considerably higher rates of pickpocketing, low level assaults, theft, etc. Perhaps this is your idea of a solution, but I think a lot of people would strongly disagree…

    biddlin: “Another case where we make a bitter choice. We could find some savings in decriminalization of pot and redirecting some cases back to the municipalities, but at some point we must decide whether we would rather punish one generation or educate the next? A few years ago a friend of mine was imprisoned for not informing on her friends to whom she allegedly supplied marijuana. The conditions of her incarceration were Draconian, by any standard of decency, resulting , ultimately, in her death from denial of medical treatment. I never forget that I hold my share of responsibility for how my society treats the least and even the worst among us.”

    I certainly think you make the case for more intervention at the stage when offenders are young. It is when intervention has the greatest chance of succeeding. I just watched “Beyond Scared Straight”, a program where young offenders headed for jail are taken into actual state prisons, so they can see where they will end up if they continue on their wrongful path. The success rate of this program is just astounding. We need more programs like this, or better yet, even better programs that change teens on the wrong path even earlier in their development. That is why after school programs are so crucial. Kids with too much time on their hands and no supervision bc parents are working/absent will find trouble. Our schools play a part in all this too – they have a habit of not addressing serious discipline problems in a meaningful way far too often – as the bullying discussions in this town’s schools have shown.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Rich: Along those lines, I can’t find the study but was pointed towards it, the bottom line is that for low level offenses short-term incarceration achieves about the same level of success as longer term sentencing, with a significant cost savings.

  11. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Rich: Along those lines, I can’t find the study but was pointed towards it, the bottom line is that for low level offenses short-term incarceration achieves about the same level of success as longer term sentencing, with a significant cost savings.”

    Long term incarceration of serial offenders keeps them from committing more crimes, or am I missing something here…

  12. Mind_hunter53

    For those who don’t need to be locked up for decades, I think we need to figure out cost-effective, creative ways to mix in punishments of exile, hard-labor, shame and less expensive methods of denying freedom to criminals** without locking them up.

    Exile — we know this will be found unconstitutional;
    Hard Labor — best idea, undoubtedly the best deterrent, but forced labor as a condition of release will be bitterly challenged as cruel and unusual etc,;
    Shame — Most habitual offenders are not ashamed; their self concept and behavior are consistent; they would be gleeful if shaming were a consequence of crime;
    Less expensive methods — yes, society can decide that they wish inmates to be in less secure settings and to have fewer programs available. Much of incarceration costs are medical, dental and mental health costs which are required by federal courts. Placement in local programs will simply transfer the costs of such to the community in which they are living.

    Also, one must remember that each time these little crime machines are rearrested for a new charge however small it may be, police time is needed and new and expensive legal proceedings are required.

    For the poster that suggested using monitored ankle bracelets — if a habitual petty offender is not deterred by the prospect of prison, he/she will not be deterred by ankle bracelet monitoring. In fact, most will simply take them off or not charge them, as they know there will be little or no consequence. Will the police be required to respond every time the alarm goes off? If so, we will be need to hire police officers, county jail staff, prosecutors and public defenders.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    ERM: Long term incarceration of serial offenders keeps them from committing more crimes, or am I missing something here…

    But at what cost? If someone is assaulting people or harming them, then you obviously want to avoid that. If someone is committing petty theft, it is actually cheaper to treat the issue on a case-to-case basis.

  14. Mind_hunter53

    The problem is not with a low level offender amenable to community intervention, it is with the habitual offender who is repeatedly unresponsive to probation supervision and drug treatment etc.

  15. Mind_hunter53

    Keeping them in prison is effective in reducing crime. While costly, incarceration in state prison works in that it keeps criminals off the streets. Keeping habitual offenders in the community costs society more in the long run due to the perpetual cycle of arrest, jail, legal costs, failed programs, and harmed citizens.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    It’s not clear that keeping them in prison is successful in preventing crime, there is the cost associated with imprisoning them and the opportunity cost of not having those resources to put elsewhere whether it is better treatment, job training, or even education. In short, we are spending way too much on people who represent a marginal threat to society.

  17. Mind_hunter53

    It is clear that when they are in prison, crime in the community is prevented. I agree regarding the opportunity cost of resources. Relative to treatment, job training and education — citizens on the whole do not want to grant habitual felons opportunities that society does not provide for those who abide by laws. The threat posed by these individuals is greater than marginal. Keep repeat offenders in prison a long time. Do away with parole. If they re-offend, return them to prison for a longer time.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    I understand the politics, but the reality is that we can pay $50K per year to lock people away or a lot less to treat them. As long as they are not true dangers, I think that is a better policy. Now when you start talking about violent offenders or sex offenders (real sex offenders as opposed to some of the things I have seen tried), then I agree with the longer prison sentence.

  19. Don Shor

    Here is the reality: [url]http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/us/24calprisons.html[/url]
    The prisons are very overcrowded and courts have ruled that that can’t continue. So either we have to raise taxes to build more prisons, or start looking at alternatives. That is what Brown has proposed. I assume that those who oppose this favor tax increases, since that is the only logical remedy.

  20. Mind_hunter53

    With all due respect and a bit of humor and cynicism — it would also save money if we send each habitual offender $3,000 monthly, and provide weekly deliveries of their drug of choice if they promise to “be good.”

  21. Rifkin

    [b]Exile[/b] — [i]”We know this will be found unconstitutional;”[/i]

    We currently exile many (but not all) foreign born prisoners to serve their time in prison in their home countries. About 30% of California prisoners are not U.S. born. Almost half of those (13% of all) are foreign citizens. There is no constitutional prohibition against stripping an immigrant of his citizenship and exiling him. There is also no Constitutional reason not to exile non-citizens in our prison system.

    Moreover, there is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting us from sending American citizens to foreign prisons to serve their terms, as long as their Constitutional rights are upheld in the foreign prison.

    So on this question you are mistaken.

    [b]Hard Labor[/b] — [i]best idea, undoubtedly the best deterrent, but forced labor as a condition of release will be bitterly challenged as cruel and unusual etc,; [/i]

    You are mistaken, here, too. There are still a number of states–Louisiana ([url]http://law.justia.com/louisiana/constitution/Article1.html[/url]) I know of for sure–which sentence criminals to hard labor. It cannot be cruel or designed to inflict injury on the criminal. But it can be physically taxing and, of course, “hard.”

    I am not suggesting it for all crimes. I think it fits best for financial crimes, like theft, robbery, burglary and so on. And I think it can be used best in a trade-off situation, where the guilty party is given a choice: 13 years behind bars or 3 years of hard labor?

    [b]Shame[/b] — [i]”Most habitual offenders are not ashamed; their self concept and behavior are consistent; they would be gleeful if shaming were a consequence of crime;”[/i]

    I never mentioned shame for habitual offenders, so your answer does not apply. I think shame can be used effectively for many offenders, though.

    An example–which I called for in my column–was with the boys who vandalized two churches west of Davis and spray painted them with anti-Semitic and anti-black/racist words. They hid from the public, of course, when they did these terrible deeds. And because they were minors their names never appeared in the newspapers. But my view then (and remains) that they should have been shamed. They should have had to walk around downtown Davis in shackles with sandwich boards announcing who they were and who their parents were and what their crimes were every day for a few weeks. I think they also should have been shamed in front of the congregations of the churches they vandalized. Shaming them would not only be a punishment, but it would be a clear and present deterent to other miscreants.

    [b]Less expensive methods[/b] — [i]”yes, society can decide that they wish inmates to be in less secure settings and to have fewer programs available. Much of incarceration costs are medical, dental and mental health costs which are required by federal courts.”[/i]

    I am really talking here about an alternative to sitting in county jail, not prison. That is not without cost. Maybe some offenders who are awaiting a court date, but cannot afford bail can more cheaply be housed in their homes, only let out for work. With ankle monitors, they can be montored and if they try to cheat the system, they will get a harsher sentence upon conviction.

  22. Mind_hunter53

    Exile: I highly doubt California will be able to farm out US citizen felons to other countries against their will to serve prison terms as a routine practice. Imagine trying to get court approval to send felons to Chinese prisons or South America or the Middle East. Not going to happen. We can’t even complete executions of prisoners who have been on death row since the early 1980’s, or easily deport people who are here illegally.

    Shame based approaches may work with some offenders — like in the case of the juveniles you noted. However, this will not work with our regulars. I also want to point out that crimes like robbery and residential burglary are considered violent crimes carrying strike penalties, they are not “financial” crimes.

    I doubt forced labor and posing choices such as 3 years on the chain gang vs. 13 in prison will survive court review. Nice idea though, I am for it.

    Ankle monitoring is widely practiced and available for low level defendants awaiting trial and afterwords. I am for it. Of course though we are talking about the easy cases here. The habitual offenders will simply remove, or not charge the devices. Then, we have a new group of commitments to fill up our prisons — electric monitor violators who now “will get a harsher sentence upon conviction.”

  23. Rifkin

    [/i]Exile: I highly doubt California will be able to farm out US citizen felons to other countries against their will to serve prison terms as a routine practice. Imagine trying to get court approval to send felons to Chinese prisons or South America or the Middle East. [/i]

    We are already doing this with some foreign-born criminals, though I don’t know if we do it with every country. I know we have a treaty with Canada, where we have agreed not to execute Canadians, but rather send them back home to serve life in prison. Arnold tried to do that with some of our Mexican nationals in our state prisons. (Mexican-born inmates are a substantial percentage of California inmates. Salvadorans are another large group.) The problem is not how badly they would be treated abroad. The risk is that their home countries let them go free, and then they just come back here.

  24. Frankly

    We can just send our prisoners to Texas along with more and more of our private business.

    Texas Prison Stats:
    – Incareration Per 100,000 = 649
    – Probationers Per 100,000 = 2,401
    – Parolees Per 100,000 = 579
    – Cost Per Inmate = $15,527

    California Prison Stats:
    – Incareration Per 100,000 = 460
    – Probationers Per 100,000 = 1,178
    – Parolees Per 100,000 = 438
    – Cost Per Inmate = $49,213

  25. Frankly

    Correctional officer salaries, annual mean wage

    Top five
    -California, $61,000
    -New Jersey, $56,960
    -Massachusetts, $53,090
    -Nevada, $50,120
    -New York, $46,760

    Texas, surrounding states
    -New Mexico, $30,400
    -Texas, $30,100
    -Louisiana, $26,940
    -Mississippi, $23,470

    Source: U.S. Department of Labor (Note: does not include pension costs and other benefits)

  26. jimt

    re: “I doubt forced labor and posing choices such as 3 years on the chain gang vs. 13 in prison will survive court review. Nice idea though, I am for it.”

    Seems to me court review has to take into consideration reasonable use of resources (i.e. $).
    As we are shifting toward a period (possibly extended) of more limited public resources, the court review needs to take this into consideration.

    Also, if the convict has the option above the labor is not “forced labor” but is a “labor option”.
    I think the convict should be paid a small rate (near minimum wage) for work done; which would then be available to him when he is released. Perhaps with this condition has better chance to pass court review?

  27. Mind_hunter53

    Are not ankle bracelets available that are extremely difficult to hack or saw off without a high-tech key?

    Paroled sex offenders wear gps monitoring ankle bracelets. Occasionally offenders cut them off. More often, they simply do not charge them (which can occur due to their not being homeless and not having access to an outlet, or because they do not want the monitoring anymore, or others to see the device.)

  28. Mind_hunter53

    RE: Correctional officer salaries

    I am not defending current wage structures for California, which have evolved through the collective bargaining process over many years and administrations. I would point out two things though. The first is that in CA, state prison correctional officers are peace officers and their wages are tied to those of other state peace officers such as highway patrol. Secondly, the wages for all levels of state and county level civil service employees are probably higher in CA vs. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and many others. I am sure the wages of police officers in the city of Davis are markedly higher than those of similar cities in the Southern states as well.

  29. Rifkin

    [i]Correctional officer salaries, annual mean wage

    Top five
    -California, $61,000
    -New Jersey, $56,960 [/i]

    This number is actually much, much, much higher for California prison guards, because they make on average one-third of their take-home pay in overtime. Just like firefighters in Davis, who are guaranteed overtime pay with every singly paycheck–it is built into the contract–the same is true with members of the CCPOA. We spend roughly $300 million a year in California on overtime for prison guards.

    [i]”I am not defending current wage structures for California, which have evolved through the collective bargaining process over many years and administrations.”[/i]

    There never has been anything close to “bargaining.” That implies that one side is defending its best interests and the other side is fighting for its interests. In reality, the CCPOA funds elected officials and the elected officials go to bat for them. Our system is thoroughly corrupt.

    [i]”The first is that in CA, state prison correctional officers are peace officers and their wages are tied to those of other state peace officers such as highway patrol.”[/i]

    Not true. There is no direct tie between the contracts of the CAHP and the CCPOA. They are determined independently and always have been. In fact, the CAHP contract agreed to last year by Gov. Schwarznegger has a number of pension reforms in it. To date, no such concessions have been made by the CCPOA.

  30. Rifkin

    The latest numbers we have for the cost of keeping one inmate for one year in a California prison come from 2008-09:

    Security–$19,663
    Health Care–$12,442
    Operations–$7,214
    Administration–$3,493
    Inmate Support–$2,562
    Rehab Programs–$1,612
    Miscellaneous–$116
         Total–[b]$47,102[/b]

  31. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “It’s not clear that keeping them in prison is successful in preventing crime, there is the cost associated with imprisoning them and the opportunity cost of not having those resources to put elsewhere whether it is better treatment, job training, or even education. In short, we are spending way too much on people who represent a marginal threat to society.”

    First of all, keeping serial offenders in prison for a long time keeps them from re-offending and the costs associated w it. Secondly, don’t kid yourself that better treatment, job training, education is going to be 1) cheaper than prison; 2) more “successful” than putting serial offenders in prison. You don’t know that…

  32. roger bockrath

    Prison is graduate school for criminals , at taxpayer expense. Non-violent offenders are housed with career violent criminals and quickly learn bigger and better ways to offend. Being surrounded only by people with even less ethics than ones self lowers the bar for what is considered unacceptable behavior.

    And like the dog that is swatted for chewing on your shoe, 15 minutes ago, prisoners who are incarcerated long term loose the connection between crime and punishment and only use the experience to learn improved technique for their criminal behavior, at taxpayer expense. It is a self-perpetuating cycle.

    Years ago I knew a retail clerk in San Francisco who took shoplifters into the back room and administered an “attitude adjustment” with the price stamper. Perhaps the petty thieves he caught just went elsewhere to steal, but almost without exception, they were never seen in his store again. I have often wondered how much money his instant justice saved taxpayers. It was for sure that the petty criminal made the connection between the crime and the punishment!

    Had these non-violent petty thieves been incarcerated, with nothing to do but learn from their new peer group, they may well have gone from being non-violent petty offenders to being career violent criminals. While the “price stamper attitude adjustment” technique may not have been the best method, most likely , early intervention kept many of these teen offenders out of prison, both saving taxpayer funds and redirecting a life toward something more rewarding than rotting in prison.

    In California we have gone from having one person out of every 1000 locked up ,in 1980 to locking up one of every 200 citizens in 2001, a five fold increase in percentage of incarcerated citizens. This “lock-um-up-and-throw-away-the-key” experiment in law enforcement, for petty non-violent repeat offenders, has proven to be a complete failure, literally bankrupting the State of California. We are spending more money to train people in criminal technique than we are in higher education.

    If we can prioritize our taxpayer expenditures toward teaching our young people alternatives to crime, as a method to fund their lives, as well as early intervention, we will need to spend much less on both county jails and state prisons. That would leave more taxpayer money for education. And education leads to good paying jobs, thus obviating the need for so many prisons. That is a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits society as a whole, not just the growing ranks of correctional officers. We must reverse our current evolution toward becoming a police state.

  33. Mind_hunter53

    Mr. Rifkin, with all due respect you are wrong.

    1. Please read the below taken from a prior arbitration finding:

    n a decision dated Saturday, an arbitrator ruled that the CCPOA’s 31,000 members are entitled a pay raise based on compensation increases the state gave to the California Highway Patrol. The prison officers’ pay is linked to the CHP’s union contract, and the arbitrator ruled that health insurance and holiday leave-time bumps the state gave over the years to the patrol must translate to more salary for the CCPOA member….

    2. I have stated that I do not defend current wages paid to correctional officers. I did state that the amounts are the products of a collective bargaining process. If is certainly your right to maintain that the collective bargaining system is corrupt — but CCPOA and other unions simply worked the system effectively and very successfully. Again, I too believe their compensation is too generous. Also, much of their overtime is a function of the state not hiring enough officers to provide necessary levels of coverage. When the state implements a furlough policy, nothing changes regarding the need to provide coverage 24/7.

    3. While the focus here is correctional officers in California, the same arguments regarding inflated salaries can be applied to all categories of state/county/city workers. Teachers, police, firefighters and bureaucrats are all overpaid compared to Mississippi etc.

  34. Mind_hunter53

    To wit:

    Mississippi Teacher Salaries

    Degree Level Year 1 Teaching Salary Year 6 Teaching Salary Year 14 Teaching Salary
    Bachelor’s Degree $30,000 $32,880 $36,720
    Master’s Degree $32,000 $35,840 $40,960
    Doctorate Degree $34,000 $38,620 $44,780

    Compare this to the amounts paid Davis teachers in the PDF linked below:

    http://www.djusd.net/employment/Teachers 2010-11.pdf

    As you can see for example, Davis teachers top out at 75,845 vs. the 44,780 in Mississppi. I am not suggesting I have done exhaustive research here and some numbers may be incorrect but the point is made.

  35. Mind_hunter53

    [quote]First of all, keeping serial offenders in prison for a long time keeps them from re-offending and the costs associated w it. Secondly, don’t kid yourself that better treatment, job training, education is going to be 1) cheaper than prison; 2) more “successful” than putting serial offenders in prison. You don’t know that… [/quote]

    Agreed; and I would argue that the 3 strikes law may save money.

  36. Frankly

    Any private-sector business run like the CA prison system would have gone out of business years ago. Herein lies the lesson of competition, or the lack thereof, and the reason why Brown will probably not solve any of our state’s critical financial problems… he will just do what standard issue politicians do – especially those indebted to public employee unions – and kick the can down the road or to other municipalities.

    Labor is almost always the biggest expense for a business. When labor grows too expensive to allow a company to compete in the market place, the company has to reduce the cost of labor per unit of sales. There are generally only four methods to accomplish this:
    1 – Improve efficiency and grow revenue (hence reducing per unit costs);
    2- Eliminate unprofitable business to shed the over-priced labor;
    3 – Outsource labor to regions where labor is less expensive;
    4 – Reduce pay and benefits of labor to reach equilibrium.

    Brown’s proposal does none of this.

  37. E Roberts Musser

    rb: “If we can prioritize our taxpayer expenditures toward teaching our young people alternatives to crime, as a method to fund their lives, as well as early intervention, we will need to spend much less on both county jails and state prisons. That would leave more taxpayer money for education. And education leads to good paying jobs, thus obviating the need for so many prisons. That is a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits society as a whole, not just the growing ranks of correctional officers…”

    Highly agree here. My son had a teenaged friend who at one time in his younger years was caught shoplifting, and merely banned from the store. It seemed to work effectively.

    JB: “…he will just do what standard issue politicians do – especially those indebted to public employee unions – and kick the can down the road or to other municipalities…
    Labor is almost always the biggest expense for a business. When labor grows too expensive to allow a company to compete in the market place, the company has to reduce the cost of labor per unit of sales. There are generally only four methods to accomplish this:
    1 – Improve efficiency and grow revenue (hence reducing per unit costs);
    2- Eliminate unprofitable business to shed the over-priced labor;
    3 – Outsource labor to regions where labor is less expensive;
    4 – Reduce pay and benefits of labor to reach equilibrium.
    Brown’s proposal does none of this.”

    Brilliantly said…

  38. Rifkin

    Mind Hunter — the story you cite is 5 years old. It was the only time the CCPOA contract had a tie to the CAHP contract, and that was solely due to the decision of an arbitrator, not actual verbiage in either contract.

    Since then the CAHP made an agreement which has not been reciprocated by the CCPOA.

  39. Mind_hunter53

    Mr. Rifkin, you stated earlier:

    [quote]They are determined independently and always have been.[/quote]

    Obviously at that point in time the contracts were tied together. And they will likely be once again as it is an easy argument to make that the level of responsibility, training and risk of both classes of peace officer are comparable.

  40. mercy for all

    So what is Jerry proposing to do with kids under 18 that get substantial, sometimes life sentences for non homicide/non sexual assault cases until they hit 18 and after for the next whatever? If there is no youth prison and no DJJ (old CYA and neither a lot different or better)? that’s the question.

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