On My 23, 2011 The Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its prison population by 37,000 inmates over the next two years. But, this is really not all that new. California has been facing a crisis in its prisons for years. Ex- Governor Arnold even sent thousands of inmates to other states to serve their time!
The reasons for this Supreme Court ruling are simple; The State of California has been putting lives at risk inside the prisons with poor healthcare. That includes poor mental health care. California prisons, as are many others, are the largest mental health facilities in the country by default. While many outsiders might not have sympathy or understanding for the poor care the inmates are receiving, they ought to. The fact is that most of these inmates are getting out at some point and coming home to a neighborhood near YOU. So, the worse the care, the angrier and potentially more violent the newly released inmate is. That is dangerous. Did we forget that the California Prison system is actually called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation?
My friend Sunny Schwartz who co-founded the RSVP program in San Francisco even wrote a book called Dreams From The Monster Factory about how violent prisons without good programs can lead to more criminal behavior and violence. Yet, with strong programs and treatment, many inmates can be rehabilitated. For example, many innovative prisons are trying a Restorative Justice approach in combination with other programs.
So, what should California and other states do? California and Governor Jerry Brown are talking about a plan that would send some violent offenders out of state; divert other inmates to early Halfway House and treatment centers as well as county jails. County jails are for people serving one year or less in most cases. Brown also said that the system needs Parole reform. Hello- YES and this insider suggests better probation supervision similar to the Federal system and more COMMUNITY SERVICE!
This insider knows that one thing is for sure; we need to educate outsiders to what really needs to happen. The key to that is a system of accountability and cooperation. Maybe now is the time for some real alternative sentences.