Sunday, April 26, 2009

More on the CDCR Budget Cut (again, from secondary sources)

I wonder why CDCR does not have the budget cut details posted to its website. All they have done so far, in terms of public information, is to tweet about others' responses to the plan. At this point, therefore, I can provide some more details about the plan and about different reactions to the plan.

You may recall the $400,000,000 cuts from the Governor's budget action in February, which included the Governor's expectation that the cuts be implemented "“in a manner that promotes rehabilitation and preserves public safety.” The original budget action also mentioned some specific ways to deal with the problem:

Counties will recall that over the last several years a range of proposals have been put forth by a variety of sources — expert panels, the Administration, and the Legislature, among others — that aim to reform the corrections system, while realizing cost savings. These proposals include various approaches to parole reform, credit enhancement, increasing thresholds for property crimes, and other sentencing changes. It is not certain whether CDCR will pursue these or other means for achieving the $400 million in savings, but the CDCR Secretary and staff have assured counties and local law enforcement stakeholders that they welcome input and suggestions, given that any reform effort is sure to impact local governments and local public safety. CSAC will continue to be engaged on counties’ behalf regarding these proposals and any others that may be considered in order to meet the Governor’s directive.

Here are the main changes, as they appeared on the Chron, the L.A. Times, and the Sac Bee:
  • Reduction of parole population by 25% (about 30,000 parolees), focused on nonviolent offenders
  • Impact of reduction: lesser parole violations, less returns to prison - a projected reduction of 4,000 in prison population
  • Expansion of good behavior credits for inmates who successfully complete educational/rehabilitative programs - a projected reduction of 4,000 inmates
  • Increased use of GPS monitors for parole violators, rather than a return to prison
  • A change in the definition of grand theft, which will raise the threshold from $400 to $950 (the previous number was set in 1982!)
  • Elimination of 150-200 positions at CDCR's Sacramento headquarters
  • Closure of one juvenile prison
  • As a concession to law enforcement opponents: proposed legislation that will allow police to search former prisoners and seize evidence of a crime from them without a warrant for at least three years after their release, even if they are not on parole
Some initial thoughts:

The decrease in parolee numbers is probably a healthy thing. I wonder whether it will be tied to severity of offense or to some measure of risk assessment (CDCR, please post the details on the website!). Most importantly, the hope is that the decisions on who is let off the hook will be in line with the parole reform suggestions that CDCR had begun working on.

The concession seems to be quite dramatic, its constitutionality seems questionable, and it certainly does not lie in CDCR's realm of expertise. Search and seizure raise constitutional issues, and in the current climate, given that this exercise of power doesn't have a price tag attached to it, I don't see CA courts, or even the Supreme Court, dismissing such legislation. The Supreme Court has been typically dismissive of the rights of former prisoners in respect ot search and seizure, exemplified by its decision in Samson v. CA (2006), which allows for a suspicionless search of parolees. So, this concession will be a legislative expansion of Samson to non-parolees as well.

While a 8,000-inmate reduction may seem dramatic to victim advocacy groups, it is a far cry from the 50,000-inmate reduction suggested in the Plata v. Schwarzenegger tentative decision, and will have a very small effect on the overcrowding problem (not that releasing 50,000 inmates with no re-entry programs to speak of is a good idea in this economy, as we argued elsewhere).

One prison is closing down. Will the CDCR continue building other prisons? Three weeks ago there was still talk of looking for $810,000,000 (twice the budget cut!) for purposes of prison expansion.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I agree that releasing 57,000+ prisoners early, over a three year period, is just about pointless without there being some type of reentry programming available. With the economy as bad as it is, and jobs scarce for the average citizen...a flood of parolee's with little to no job skills or training (and a good portion of them substance addicted!) will have little chance of successfully reintegrating back into society on a large-scale basis. I believe that the counties must take more responsibility for their returned offenders, and institute reintegration programs. For the counties that succeed in keeping parole violations down - reward them monetarily so that they can continue to provide help to this segment of people! We must rethink our tough on crime attitudes and get smart on crime. jackima

Hadar Aviram said...

Monetary rewards for those counties is a particularly good idea, jackima, given the "correctional free lunch" Frank Zimring was referring to at the conference. If the county sentences, and the state punishes, somehow the responsibility must be brought home to the party who generates the inmates in the first place!

Prison Clinician said...

A lot will depend on who is being released from parole. In case of those with severe mental illness, the recidivism rate was as high as 90+% in San Francisco (this figure is from 2004, don't know if things have changed since then).

For those with mental illness, what will be needed is expanded county mental health services - who have the experience in providing intensive case management. I really don't see CDCR being able to provide effective clinical case management for these inmates, not within the prison, nor as part of parole.

Re: 57,000+ prisoners, they will not just need job skills, - but a large number will need a massive level of community mental health services, designed to provide case management to a seriously mentally ill population. With prop 1E (if it passes) due to take away $$$ from community mental health - the counties are completely unprepared to provide this level of care. this...

Jerry Jarvis said...

All I see is a band aid to the problem. A sore still festers beneath the bandage. The sore being is "how did we get here in the first place?".