2006/07/09

Schwarzenegger's Bonehead Prison Plan

In another ridiculous example of the Governator floating a policy that has no chance of ever being implemented, he proposes to alleviate the terrible overcrowding in California's prisons by shipping prisoners out of state. So Blognonymous asks: Does Arhnult's staff fact check these steaming turds before he puts them out there? Certainly our local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, doesn't bother. They gave the administration a buy in Saturday's article. So let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

California has one of the largest prison populations in the US at over 160,000 inmates and the system is estimated to be at 200% capacity. So, does this mean that 80,000 prisoners need to be shipped out of state? Probably not...unless California gets into a debacle like the one that placed the Texas prison system under a Federal judge's authority back in the 1980's. And guess which state has the crown for population size and inmates per capita? Yes indeed, the Lone Star State which by most estimates is at capacity now and will need another 5 prisons in the next decade. In fact, Texas' prison population is increasing at double California's rate. So where are those "extra" beds gonna come from? Not from Texas, leaving the other 3 states that Arhnult mentioned.

Well Indiana, Michigan, and Louisiana together can handle about 110,000 inmates, and in order to absorb even a fraction, say 20%, of the 51,000 new spaces that California will need in next 15 years, those states would have be able to contract for 10% of their capacity. And that's ignoring the fact that it has to be the "right" kind of prison space, appropriate to the type of offense. And what about those extra 80,000 that are crowding our prisons now?

Moreover, there are additional logistical problems with Arhnult's plan. First, state law currently prohibits inmates being shipped out of state without their permission. Second, what do you do with the inmates when their sentences are complete? Leave them in the state where they were incarcerated? Ship 'em back to California and incur the expense? Third, what do you do if they commit a crime while incarcerated outside of California?

For so many reasons this plan will never get off the ground, and it's a damn shame that Schwarzenegger's administration is wasting time on this kind of bullsh*t when they could be addressing the real reasons for explosion in CA's prison population, incarceration for non-violent drug offenses and incarceration of illegal immigrants.


Thanks to Tom Hilton @ If I Ran the Zoo for getting me thinking about this issue.

10 Comments:

Maybe Arnold should jingle all the way back to his Govenator's mansion and think that one thru again.

Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!
Excellent post, Kvatch. There really is no way to deal with the problem short of serious sentencing reform...and at this point not even Angelides is proposing that.
Tom agreed. Sentencing reform is a must, but the prison issue is so complex that I'm afraid that nothing much will be accomplished. I don't believe that California has the will to really deal with this other than by throwing money at the problem--which means more prison beds. Auuugggghhhh!
Gives us a good look at how the war on drugs is not working and is a useless waste of time. Really, do they ever stop to think these things through?
So answer me this: If tougher sentencing, three strike rules, all those disincentives to crime really work, why are the prisons still filling up? If the death penalty is the ultimate disincentive, why are there always people waiting in line to get on death row?
I understand the US has the highest prisoner rate per capita - at least in the sophisticated, advanced and civilized world; which would suggest it is an economic micro-management tool rather than a law and order issue.
The system seems neither to dissuade nor rehabilitate, it simply create an alternative society.
Exactly Cartledge.

Mccs1977
Mary, and think of the tax revenues if we just legalized the stuff.

The system seems neither to dissuade nor rehabilitate, it simply create an alternative society.

Cartledge, I think that the US has given up on rehabilitation. Quite the contrary, we seem to be putting in place policies that guarantee that once incarcerated the person is "branded for life".
Take the non-violent drug offenders and you will open up a hell of a lot of beds in our prison system...Make room for white collar criminals!
What "thepoetryman" said!
Right on!

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