Friday, December 16, 2011

Realignment: How Not to Do It

Our outrage-de-jour for today comes from that paragon of punitivism, Riverside County (also responsible for many of CA's death sentences). How to handle realignment and an influx of jail inmates? Let them pay for their stay.

I kid you not. The New York Times reports:

With already crowded jails filling quickly and an $80 million shortfall in the budget, Riverside County officials are increasingly desperate to find every source of revenue they can. So last month, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a plan to charge inmates for their stay, reimbursing the county for food, clothing and health care.

Prisoners with no assets will not have to pay, but the county has the ability to garnish wages and place liens on homes under the ordinance, which goes into effect this week.

As the county supervisor who pressed for the ordinance, Jeff Stone, likes to put it: “You do the crime, you will serve the time, and now you will also pay the dime.”

You like the rhyme? Are you a mime? Do you have lyme? Really, if we decide to adopt inhumane, atrocious and self-defeating policies, can we do so based on something empirically loftier than a cute word play?

A slightly less unacceptable explanation comes from neighboring Orange County:

“Sometimes you attack the absurd with the absurd,” said John M. W. Moorlach, an Orange County supervisor. “We’re all messaging to Sacramento that the state has do more than just take our money and download prisoners to us. We’re all finding different ways to scream.”

Mr. Moorlach - you are not writing a Samuel Beckett play. You are dealing with human beings, and the goal, supposedly, is for them not to return to prison. How is placing a lien on their post-jail earnings conducive to that?

Props to Amir Paz-Fuchs for the link.

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