Twist the structure of your average day
Richard Krupp. PhD.
According to the recent ACLU report,Public Safety Realignment, California at a Crossroads,
Widespread jail expansion is not necessary to protect public safety or hold individuals accountable for criminal behavior.
Counties can take the smarter, evidence-based path and implement cost-effective alternatives to incarceration that will reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
The Chief Probation Officer of San Francisco said, “The realignment sky is not falling in San Francisco….there are bad guys that are going to do some bad things.”
A system in which crimes are not crimes, victims are not even mentioned and criminals stay in the community, is ass-backwards. One purpose of the criminal justice system is to keep criminals out of circulation so they don’t prey on law abiding citizens. According to California Penal Code Section, 1170 (a)(1), “The Legislature finds and declares the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment.”
In every country, state, and local community there is always a portion of the population that breaks the law. The proportion may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but for the most part there are always criminals. It is not possible to eliminate crime or criminals. A portion of those criminals need to be kept away from the law abiding citizens for varying lengths of time.
Efforts to rehabilitate criminals have never been as successful as old age and death. Incarceration is always a better way to keep criminals from committing more crimes than community supervision. However, we are apparently stuck with the dumping of criminals through the fog of realignment and it’s about to get worse.
According to the Los Angeles Times on September 7, 2012, “This Court is not inclined to permit re-litigation of the proper population cap at this time,” federal jurists said in an order issued Friday. But they said they would consider extending the state’s deadline until the end of 2013 — an additional four months — if California provides plans for reaching the judges’ goal.” That will put a twist in the structure of your average day if you work in the department of corrections or more importantly live in a California community with growing crime.
California’s solution to reduce prison overcrowding, costs, and recidivism, is a plan to help comply with court orders relative to inmate medical care. To believe any of this is possible requires a leap of faith. As with most political solutions the problem and new direction has to be packaged and sold to the public as something that sounds good; if you don’t look too close or ask too many questions. Releasing tens of thousands of criminals to the community becomes “realignment of low-level offenders.”
Make no mistake, thousands of criminals who have been on probation, in treatment, and served time in county jail before are now being released from prison and sometimes avoiding prison to start the cycle over. That necessarily means more victims, more arrests, prosecutions and incarceration.
Some of the centralized problems prisons have been dealing with are being dumped on the counties. County jails, many of which are also under population caps, will also see growth relative to inmate medical and time in-cell problems; lawsuits in the making. The jails were not designed for long term inmates. Jail inmates will be growing in criminal sophistication and all the associated problems.
One of the keystones of the realignment plan assumes inmates will be cured through drug treatment program efforts. A 2005 survey of 8,000 California prison inmates participating in drug treatment programs found 60% had already failed in community and county jail programs. The vast majority went on to fail in the prison and aftercare programs.
What happens if the inmates are not cured and we are stuck with the inmate cap; which apparently we are? At the present time the California prison population looks like this:
|Murder 1 & 2||22,000|
|2nd & 3rd Strikers||41,000|
Depending on what you read, the court imposed population cap is either 110,000 or 112,000. The cap must be met by either June or December, 2013. How is that going to happen? If the 8,000 miscellaneous inmates are released there is still a gap of 13-15,000 inmates. Will violent crimes be magically changed to non-violent? What if some of the realigned make a return visit to prison? What if more criminals are knocking at the front door than there are criminals sneaking out the back door?
If intake increases there are three options:
- Build more prison bed capacity.
- Increase the inmate population cap.
- Let more inmates out of prison that are outside established criteria.
Can we take another leap of faith? If the structure of the realignment plan is based on bad assumptions what is the fall back plan? At some point a horrific crime will take place that will be the undoing of this mess. The only question comes in two parts; how many victims will line the path and how soon will it be brought to light?