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More Prisons vs. Rehabilitation & Mental Health Care



Governor Jerry Brown proposed to limit California’s overcrowded prisons by leasing more prison space.  Brown’s proposal consisted of spending about $315 million next year to house inmates in private facilities, county jails and out-of-state prisons. Fellow Democrats in the state Senate, led by Darrell Steinberg, condemned Brown’s $315 million proposal as a short-term fix.

“Temporarily expanding California’s prison capacity is neither sustainable nor fiscally responsible,” Senate leader Steinberg wrote in a letter to Brown, “The administration’s current plan is a risky gamble.”

Senate leader Steinberg opposed completely the idea of contracting for more prison space. The opposition to Gov. Brown recommended spending the funds on helping inmates with rehabilitation and improving mental health services. By doing so, California would reduce the over crowded prison population.

Over the last six weeks, Gov. Brown and California’s overcrowded prisons have made headlines every week. First, in July, more than 30,000 inmates started a hunger strike protesting the excessive use of solitary confinement. Prisonpath posted an article on July 18th about the merits of the California’s inmate’s hunger strike. As of this date, there are approximate 45 inmates still on hunger strike protesting California’s abusive prison conditions.

Second, a special panel of three federal appellate judges ruled in 2009 that California’s prisons had to set a cap on the  exploding inmate population. The resulting court order required Gov. Brown to reduce the prison population by the end of this year by nearly 10,000 inmates. The governor has resisted repeated calls from the court panel to ease over crowding in the prisons. The judges threatened to hold him in contempt. The U.S. Supreme Court in August denied a petition from Brown requesting a  waiver of the judges’ order. The California crisis was reviewed in our article, “Overcrowded Prisons Everywhere.

It is just common sense that less prison space along with increased rehabilitation and increased mental health services will result in a reduced prison population. At the end of the day, our society will benefit from reduced recidivism.