This piece is about a week overdue, but I trust our readers will find it interesting. Our friends at PrisonMovement are linking to a New America piece in which two inmates express insightful, grim opinions about the prospect of early releases. One of them, Dwight Abbott, writes:
The facts today are now known by anyone who reads the newspaper; California’s Corrections Administration has always known them. Yet, it took a federal takeover to squeeze out an admission that “there are problems.” This from the same people who immediately after, refused to comply with demands to repair what is broken. All the while, both sides — the courts who have the authority to force the reform, and the state officials not wanting it to — appear to have forgotten the inmates who are continuing to die unnecessarily because of the inhumane conditions being wrangled over… Collateral damage.
End overcrowding? End warehousing and abusing incarcerated juveniles? Compel California to act on previous court orders issued through the years? The Administration has no fear of the courts, with good reason. No person calling the shots in this matter has yet to be charged (much less jailed) for being in contempt of a court mandate after refusing to comply. Until that changes, the children will not be “rehabilitated.” They will not be allowed an education (locked inside a 4’x4’ screened cage five hours a day), participate in therapy, or to partake in vocational training, watched over by an independent watchdog group assuring what is supposed to be happening. The 90% recidivism rate among juvenile offenders will not change. They are fodder to fill the state’s bloated adult prisons.
What programs could be brought to life to change this dismal, unending record of failure? In the long run, only a return to indeterminate sentencing, with built-in incentives (like early release) for prisoners to participate can work to reduce a cycle that no one seems able or willing to break. If prisoners knew that immersing themselves in programs that teach them to read, to address their addictions, to learn violence reduction strategies, to have access to vocational training that actually prepares a prisoner for meaningful employment, you would see a dramatic decline in the worst aspects of prison life, and a dramatic increase in legal and productive behavior when they hit the streets, as almost all will.
What to do right now about overcrowding? Admit parole is a fake! Under California’s sentencing guidelines, those today being paroled have, in reality, completed their sentence. The problem lies with the courts adding on years of parole, to be served after a sentence is completed. Implemented, perhaps, with the best of intentions, in truth, parole only serves a huge number of men and women employed by the state as Parole Officers at a cost of over a billion dollars annually. They in turn guarantee the CDCR its prisons remain overcrowded with “technical parole violators,” which then guarantees prison guards (whose annual salary ranges between $50,000 and $60,000) an opportunity to pad their checks with an additional $100,000+ of taxpayer’s money in overtime pay each year.
What should be obvious to anyone reading this: there is no need to release so much as one convict who has not yet completed his/her sentence. Instead, release those who have, and are presently among the 30,000 “technical” parole violators who, at any given time, languish in California’s overcrowded prisons for up to one year, trapped by a broken system which has recidivism rates of close to 70%, the highest in the United States.
Props to Jerry Jarvis for the link.