Friday, February 13, 2009

Seven Nagging Questions about the Post-Plata/Coleman World

1. Is this really going to happen after the final decision, or will we all wait for the appeal, which will surely come?

2. If we are about to dramatically relieve prison overcrowding, how do we guarantee that people don't end up back in prison anyway, due to parole violations, and with precious little reentry resources?

3. Doesn't the decision render the release part of Prop 9 pretty much irrelevant?

5. How large is the backlash going to be?

7. If we're worried about recidivism among released inmates, isn't it better to systematically find out what works in the real world, rather than work with simplistic, imaginary models?

Do you have any nagging questions about the aftermath of the District Court's decision? Please post them in the comments, and we'll try and answer them together.


Anonymous said...

my question is why don't we as a society tie this to the war on drugs and point out that filling our prisons with drug addicts and recreational users is absurd.

While I don't have the numbers to back this up, I'm sure if we released people who are only guilty of posession of drugs, particularly small quantities, that would help to greatly alleviate our current problem. The amount of resources devoted to many victimless crimes is a poor use of the state's power.

Hadar Aviram said...

Agreed, Steve, and I would add to that the issue of carefully exercising discretion about which parole violations land one back in prison, and the extent to which two- and three-strikes restrictions blow up the picture.

I think much of the pre-Plata talk about Schwarzenegger's intention to release 15,000 prisoners had to do with how we determine who qualifies as non-violent and is therefore a priority for release. Would we use the offense someone was convicted for as basis for this assessment, or do we look at the person's entire background? This brings to the surface a whole host of issues the system thought it had the luxury to avoid. I hope this comes up in our sentencing panel.