Sunday, June 14, 2009

Local Jails Oppose the Plan to Divert "Wobbler" Offenses Away from State Prisons

A while ago, we reported on the Governor's plan to divert "wobbler" offenses from state prisons to local jails. As expected, local authorities are reacting very badly to this plan to pass the buck. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Local law-enforcement officials warn that an influx of new inmates could force them to release their own prisoners to make room.

Changing sentencing guidelines would eventually steer 20,000 inmates away from state prisons to county jails, Mr. Schwarzenegger estimates. California's county jails now hold about 80,000 inmates, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


Local governments are hurting for money as badly as the state is -- with some of the pain coming as a result of reduced state funding. Many have cut budgets for their own local jails and detention facilities. "It's like a double whammy the state is sending our way," said Mike Reagan, a Solano County supervisor. "More prisoners and less money -- this is going to hurt like hell."

Mr. Reagan estimated his county would need to take an additional 1,200 inmates a year under Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan. That would overwhelm its jail system, which has reached capacity at 1,000 inmates, he said.

The financial crisis is generating plans that go beyond the non-punitive trend that we have called humonetarianism; it is also generating an abundance of plans that consist of playing with the statistics to make the problem appear smaller, in a manner reminiscent to the classic "juking the stats" scenes from The Wire, which is all too common in the criminal justice system. This category of solutions includes the treatment of undocumented immigrants, and especially the process of handing them to the feds. Engaging in these magic feats - making a population seem to disappear while, in reality, it doesn't - may prove to be a big mistake. The silver lining of the economic crisis is that it presents an opportunity for change, and hiding our overcrowding problem under the carpet means missing that opportunity completely, at someone else's expense.


Props to a friend who chooses to remain anonymous for sending the WSJ piece my way.


Jerry Jarvis said...

I'm optimistic about this, I see it as a opportunity for counties and communities to be more creative in sentencing alternatives like they have never been before.

Ces said...

I agree, time for counties to come up with creative solutions. Counties and City have bloated parks and rec. dept, along with streets and maintenance dept. Not to mention all the pot holes and graffiti that still goes unrepaired or covered up.