Friday, April 27, 2007

More on CA Legislation

I made the point yesterday that CA passing the bill to add prison beds without getting the other reforms like a sentencing commission at the same time has historically led to more cost and buildup and substantial delay and lost opportunity for the reforms in states like WI. Seems that others there have made the same connection, as this article on the bill makes clear:

. . . the package excluded any effort to deal with the state's discredited parole system. Also omitted was a commission to review California's Byzantine sentencing laws. A third proposal that has drawn particularly high marks from criminologists — to move 4,500 nonviolent female offenders out of prison to correctional centers near their homes — was missing from the agreement as well.

"This is a deal about practical politics and beds," said Franklin Zimring, a professor and corrections expert at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. "So it's going to satisfy the Sealy mattress company, and that's about it."


"In keeping with this casual approach to our state's finances, there is absolutely nothing in this measure to contain costs," said Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks).

The true cost of the $6.1 billion in lease revenue bonds at the heart of the deal could reach $15 billion, including financing, with no voter approval required. About $1.2 billion would come from California counties.

"I find it very troubling that we're still acting so recklessly even as we watch our state's financing deteriorate so rapidly," McClintock said.


The voting followed hours of feverish but ultimately futile lobbying by the prison guards' union, which said the package would endanger its 31,000 members by adding more beds at prisons that are plagued by violence and severely understaffed.


But analysts predicted that momentum for the other proposals, viewed as politically risky by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, would fizzle given the breadth and expense of the package approved this week.

Legislation to carry out the shift of female offenders already has perished in an Assembly committee. Backers now say the only hope is to include the program in the governor's revised budget, to be released in May.

A proposal to create an independent commission that would have the authority to alter criminal sentencing laws is moving through the Legislature, but Schwarzenegger wants a panel that is advisory only.

As for the tens of thousands of parole violators who cycle in and out of California prisons each year, few legislators seem ready to champion changes in how they are managed. Other states have reduced their prison costs and populations — and recidivism rates — by punishing such violators at the community level. No such program exists in California.

There are a lot of good people in CA trying to bail that state out before it's too late, but, if the new beds do buy off the judges, all they're looking at there is a few years and billions more dollars before they're back in exactly the same situation, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

No comments: