Saturday, January 3, 2009

Prison and Parole Cuts: Lean Years, Lean Budget


Yesterday's Sacramento Bee reported Governor Schwarzenegger's new budget plan, which has direct implications for corrections policy. The gist of it is as follows:

Parole would be eliminated for all nonserious, nonviolent and non-sex offenders. The proposal would cut the parole population by about 65,000 by June 30, 2010, or more than half of the Christmas Eve count of 123,144.

At the same time, the corrections plan calls for increasing good-time credits for inmates who obey the rules and complete rehabilitation programs. Combined with the new parole policies that would result in fewer violators forced back into custody, the proposal would reduce the prison population by 15,000 by June 30, 2010. It stood at 171,542 on Dec. 24.

The California Correctional Peace Officers' Association, who has previously opposed the Governor's plan for state employees to go on one-day furloughs, opposes this plan as well. This letter from their Executive Vice President, Chuck Alexander, has bits and pieces of the proposed budget in it.

A careful read of the budget will reveal cuts not only in the prison and parole systems, but also in the medical system's Receiver's budget. Some rehabilitative re-entry programs might actually see an increase in funding.

Desperate times, apparently, call for desperate measures. These steps echo what I commented on here and here: we no longer care about the merits of a correctional institution or project. We only care about how much it costs.

But wait: isn't de-crowding our prisons, and cutting our parole system, a good thing on the merits as well? This is a bit more complex than it might seem. A credit accumulation system is certainly a good thing, and it helps focus the release decision on factors having to do with actual behavior and change, rather than on a regurgitation of issues concerning the offense itself (a bit more on that, from a broader doctrinal perspective, in this piece by W. David Ball). But rather than eliminating mandatory parole, if we had the leisure of giving this reform careful thought, we would perhaps be better off retooling parole to act as an institution encouraging and supporting ex-felons in re-entry, rather than supervising them and returning them to jails for technicalities? A reformed parole system could be an invaluable resource for people seeking housing and work upon their return from prison. As is becoming plainly obvious, this is not about common sense, even if, in some cases, it seems to make sense as a policy. This is strictly about the money.

It remains to be seen whether the legislator will approve these changes. To Be Continued.

8 comments:

Lorna Solito said...

I cannot agree with you more! It is time to keep CDCR accountable for their abuse and prejudice towards parolees. The system is NOT set up to help parolees be successful on the outside. CDCR has too much power and has contributed more than the public realizes to the overcrowding and prejudice we see in our state re parolees today. I have a story you may be interested in as I truly KNOW both sides. Keep up the great articles.

Hadar Aviram said...

Thanks for commenting, Lorna. Check out the newer posts for updates on the budget business - and for the expected cuts in parole.

Anonymous said...

I was convicted of a sex offense on an adult woman 6 years ago. I was sentenced to 3 years state prison and 3 years of parole with an extra year to ba added if I violated. I have truly repented and admitted my actions. I served almost the entire 3 years (15% good time credits). I completed and worked in the in-prison drug program for over 2 years. I was released from prison on 10/6/06.
My parole conditions stated 3 years. On Tuesday I went to the Parole department to be released from Parole. My agent told me (without any empathy) they made a typo 3 years ago and that I was supposed to do 5 years on Parole. I have completed a drug program (3 years)
I have completed a sex offender program, 10 hours a week for 16 months.
I have worn a GPS device for 22 months.
I have a full time job and have had full time jobs since 4 days after my release.
I live with my wife and 4 children.
I volunteered my time to sit on a Board of Directors for a organization that runs battered womens shelters.
I have jumped over every hurdle and through every hoop to satisfy my parole conditions.
I worked 2 full time jobs to get my family out of $20,000 in debt. I did so in less than a year. I am committed to my family and to my community.
My crimes were horndus but I served my time, I have changed my life and my way of thinking. Another 2 years of not being able to visit my mothers grave (out of state) see my extended family (out of state) take my daughters to cheer compitions (out of state) or just going swimming, seems like a lifetime.
I have also been in AA for 6 years and I have not touched any drugs or booze since the day I was arrested.


Jesse S
Husband and Father of 4

Anonymous said...

I was convicted of a sex offense on an adult woman 6 years ago. I was sentenced to 3 years state prison and 3 years of parole with an extra year to ba added if I violated. I have truly repented and admitted my actions. I served almost the entire 3 years (15% good time credits). I completed and worked in the in-prison drug program for over 2 years. I was released from prison on 10/6/06.
My parole conditions stated 3 years. On Tuesday I went to the Parole department to be released from Parole. My agent told me (without any empathy) they made a typo 3 years ago and that I was supposed to do 5 years on Parole. I have completed a drug program (3 years)
I have completed a sex offender program, 10 hours a week for 16 months.
I have worn a GPS device for 22 months.
I have a full time job and have had full time jobs since 4 days after my release.
I live with my wife and 4 children.
I volunteered my time to sit on a Board of Directors for a organization that runs battered womens shelters.
I have jumped over every hurdle and through every hoop to satisfy my parole conditions.
I worked 2 full time jobs to get my family out of $20,000 in debt. I did so in less than a year. I am committed to my family and to my community.
My crimes were horndus but I served my time, I have changed my life and my way of thinking. Another 2 years of not being able to visit my mothers grave (out of state) see my extended family (out of state) take my daughters to cheer compitions (out of state) or just going swimming, seems like a lifetime.
I have also been in AA for 6 years and I have not touched any drugs or booze since the day I was arrested.


Jesse S
Husband and Father of 4

Hadar Aviram said...

Thanks for writing, Jesse. I hope things work out for you.

johncreechis said...

What is the proposed new good time credits? I have heard that they are proposing 35% good time for all non violent cases.

Anonymous said...

What are the new proposed good time credits for non violent offenders?

Hadar Aviram said...

John and Anonymous, The latest information about good credits (as of Feb 2010) can be found in this letter from the Prison Law Office, in one of our newer posts:

http://californiacorrectionscrisis.blogspot.com/2010/02/sb-xxx-18-prison-credits-information.html