Reduce California's prison population

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EDITORIAL California must reduce its prison population — as federal judges have been ordering for years to address severe overcrowding and substandard health care — and it should use this opportunity to completely reform its approach to criminal justice.

Instead, Gov. Jerry Brown has chosen to fight this reasonable directive, exporting thousands more of our inmates to other states and propping up the unseemly private prison industry in the process by signing a $28.5 million contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

Last month, the federal judges overseeing California's prison downsizing once again extended their Dec. 31 deadline for the state to cut its 134,000-person prison population by another 9,600 inmates, pushing it back to Feb. 24 while the state and lawyers for the prisoners try to negotiate a deal. An update on the status of negotiations is due Nov. 18.

We urge Gov. Brown to follow the lead of his fellow Bay Area Democrats in choosing a more enlightened path forward. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, has convened several recent hearings looking at alternatives to incarceration, including one on Nov. 13 focused on diversion and sentencing.

"I'm hoping to come up with a sentencing reform bill out of this hearing," Ammiano told the Guardian, expressing hopes that Californians are ready to move past the fear-based escalation of sentences that pandering politicians pushed throughout the '90s, continuing the progress the state has already made on reforming Three Strikes and some drug laws. Sen. Mark Leno has also provided important leadership on these issues.

There's no justification for California to have among the highest incarceration rates in the world, four times the European average, and we should embrace the mandate to reduce our prison population with everything from sentencing reform to addressing poverty, police and prosecutorial bias, early childhood education, and other social and economic justice issues.

Closely related to reducing our prison population, at least in term of dropping the "get tough" attitudes that undermine our compassionate and humanity, is treating those we do incarcerate more humanely.

Ammiano and Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) helped end this summer's prisoner hunger strike by holding a hearing on improving conditions in the prisons, including the possibility of abolishing cruel solitary confinement practices, as the United Nations recommends and even Mississippi has managed to do. And we think abolition of capital punishment should remain an important near-term goal.

Brown isn't the most progressive on criminal justice issues, following in an unfortunate tradition of Democratic governors who fear being called soft on crime. But Ammiano sees hopeful signs of potential progress, and he has our support. Now is the time to move California's criminal justice system into the 21st century.

Comments

fewer prisoners. But the voters have repeatedly indicated that they want a zero tolerance policy towards felons and, particularly, violent felons. And it's one of the few things they will always support tax hikes for.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

Now that we have heard the inevitable comment obscura from the peanut gallery, let's hear the reality about the new era of mass incarceration and prison industrial complex in the U.S., the country that now imprisons more of its citizens (and more of its citizens per capita) than any other nation on Earth (with nearly all of those prisoners, people of color).

Michelle Alexander On The Era Of Mass Incarceration

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvUeOvLSEMI&list=TLFZfNIv21SBG5rp591aLQD...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

including three strieke which accounts for much of the prison population.

Not that you care what the voters want, unless it happens to be the same as you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 8:42 am

...its contents.

Voters were deceived into believing that only 3 violent crimes would trigger 3 strikes, when that is not the case, and people have been sent to prison under 3 strikes for crimes like shoplifting and stealing slices of pizza.

So the voters often make big mistakes because they have been duped by slick high priced ad campaigns, and it is now time to reverse the 3 strikes mistake.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

If an election goes the way you want, like Prop B/C, then it is a giant vindication by the people of your policies.

But when you lose an election, then the voters were lied to?

Listen to yourself, for once.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

Elections are nearly always flawed and manipulated, and the 8 Washington vote involved plenty of deception and manipulation by the developers. But sometimes progressive organizers do such a good job of overcoming the flaws and/or have so much support from the public, that the flaws and manipulations are overcome, and we win good policy, because no amount of corporate corruption can steal that particular vote.

So it is not a contradiction at all to say elections are deeply flawed, manipulated and corrupt, while also saying that when progressives win, it means that we have made, even that deeply flawed process, work.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

a testament to how far even a seemingly smart person can resist obvious truths.

The people are not stupid and they usually vote their interests. Whether a single person (you, me, anyone) thinks they make the "right" or "wrong" choice doesn't matter because the whole point of democracy is that no one person's opinion is any more valid than any other one person.

You engage in attempts to manipulate the voters every bit as much as those you criticize for funding ads etc. Both you and they are trying to skew the result in your favor. I see no difference.

I happen to think that the voters get is right usually. But, more importantly, I recognize that my notion of "right" is subjective. You do not, and that is the big difference between us.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

...they are being lied to by high priced corporate ad campaigns.

And the difference in influence from one side or the other is that I don't lie to voters when I campaign (which is the case with most progressive organizers). Conversely, almost all corporate run campaigns lie profusely.

And we of course have not yet even touched upon outright corruption, ballot boxes in the bay, etc.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

"stupid" and which are not?

The arrogance of ideologs on the left is breathtaking.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

I am simply making and independent judgment. As I am sure you yourself do many times every day. In fact your claim that ideologues on the left are arrogant is equally emphatic.

So, dramatic statements about people are ok for you to make, but not for other people to make?

And passing 3 Strikes and Prop 13 were both definitely stupid decisions.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

If all you had meant was that you personally disagreed with the results, that would have been fine.

But you phrased your opinion as some sort of universal obvious truth when in fact it is an extremist, fringe opinion.

Three Strikes and Prop 13 remain massively popular decades after they were introduced, which just serves to show how hopelessly out of touch you are with what ordinary people think and feel.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

strikes had passed. I'd say that indicates popularity, and of cours emany other States have followed us.

It may be that support for it has peaked, but that is a long way from any serious attempt to repeal it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

From:

http://tinyurl.com/3StrikesPoll

"Three in four voters (74%) say they now agree that the state's "three strikes" law should be modified
to give judges and juries more discretion in deciding the sentences given to persons convicted of a
third felony as a way to ease prison overcrowding."

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

Where's the poll showing that a majority want to abandon it?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

Try fully reading what you are responding to before pressing 'enter', ok?

and

When did I claim that voters want to completely abandon 3 strikes? (Can you cut and paste where I said that for us, so we can read it?)

I actually said, that when voters approved the 3 strikes law that passed (which was a stupid law) they made a stupid mistake.

Thankfully, they are now correcting that mistake.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

Way too partisan and self-serving.

Let me know when Three strikes is repealed. Until then it's all moot.

Ditto Prop 13 - another "stupid" but wildly popular law.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

The public has called for adjustments to prop 13 as well actually.

See http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Poll-finds-support-for-Prop-13-change...

And the previous link cited was from a perfectly professional and unbiased polling firm.

Claiming my sources are biased, when they are not, is not going to save your bacon in this debate.

Argue the merits, not your own bias.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:39 am

The only people who don't realize it are people like you who are not exercising critical thinking. A majority of the public now realizes that 3 strikes was excessive and are supportive of changes.

From:

http://tinyurl.com/3StrikesPoll

"Three in four voters (74%) say they now agree that the state's "three strikes" law should be modified
to give judges and juries more discretion in deciding the sentences given to persons convicted of a
third felony as a way to ease prison overcrowding."

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

You claim what you believe is "universal" and "obvious" while anyone disagreeing with you is "stupid". How do you ever win any debates that way? That's not an argument at all. It's a value judgment.

Three strikes has probably now reached or passed its point of maximum popularity, and maybe some changes are prudent. But that is a long way from a majority wanting to repeal it and I see little popular support for that.

While Prop13 remains insanely popular.

I do not think that you talk to a broad enough cross-section of the population to really understand what people think outside your little green enclave.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

...a stupid decision.

I myself went along with a tobacco industry sponsored 'anti tobacco' initiative in the mid 90s. Hence I made a stupid decision on that ballot measure. But, of course, observing that I made a stupid decision in that case, is in no way a claim that I am somehow stupid.

Do you see the difference now?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

you disagree with. If you want to say you oppose X then say that. But claiming that X is stupid simply because you don't like it is not intelligent debating.

Everyone thinks that the things they disagree with are stupid in some sense, so you are not adding any value here over and above saying you don't agree with something.

Likewise, claiming that what you support is a "universal truth" is equally valueless.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

You actually appear to be ludicrously trying to debate the definition of the word 'stupid', apparently because you know your position on the subject we are discussing is so weak and full of holes that you have no leg to stand on.

Care to get back to the subject?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:43 am

oh the purity of the Eric Brooks and his convictions, except, you know, when he touts the sell-out to Shell Oil

give it a rest, man

Posted by guestD on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I have always argued against the Shell contract.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

We were also duped into thinking that realignment would only affect non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders serving less than a three year term. LA county houses a drug trafficer sentenced to 41 years in county jail....They are all liars! Follow the money!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 11:57 am

If the non-violent prisoners were released or re-sentenced to GPS and community service, there would be no need to spend $1 billion on renting private prison beds over the next few years.

Brown is more concerned with keeping non-violent prisoners to man fire crews at $1 per day than he is cutting back on the extraordinary power of law enforcement labor unions. He's pandering to them when he refuses to cooperate with the Supreme Court and judges, but the truth is that he has blood on his hands.

Jerry Brown has always been a Republican when it comes to criminal justice matters. His refusal to lighten the sentencing laws is even more evidence that he needs to retire. There are elderly women especially, quadriplegics, people with Alzheimer's who have no idea why they're in prison, white collar people who may or may not have committed a crime. The system is so corrupt that all it takes is an accusation to gain a conviction. How about the Census revealing that six million Californians live beneath the poverty line, the highest rate in the nation. There is a direct link between poverty and crime. We are fools if we re-elect him.

Posted by Guest B. Cayenne Bird on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:43 am

re-offends then there will be a public outrage, much like the one that sank Kerry.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:54 am

which is true of thousands of inmates

Posted by buifsi on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:58 am

significant higher risk of potential for violence.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
Posted by blkdjfg on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

break other laws, because it shows a fundamental disrespect for the law in general to break laws.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

try finding some statistics to back it up

you won't be able to

Posted by kjdfhk on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

I have what is sometimes called "real life experience".

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

...experience which prove that what you are saying is true.

Apparently you've done a valid statistical study.

By all means share your results with us.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

is somehow miraculously less likely to commit another felony?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

no one is falling for your pathetic shell game of cynically asking your opponent for proof of a negative, as a way to distract from the fact you were the one who was asked to provide proof of your positive claim of a correlation between nonviolent and violent crime

and you have not done so (because the proof doesn't exist)

prove your case

or shut up

Posted by bldkfjiguo on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

proof isn't on me. It's on you to prove me wrong and, so far, you haven't.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

time to crawl off with your tail between your legs

Posted by bkhdk on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

I am perfectly happy with the current incarceration policies so I have no need to jump at anyone's behest.

You can either try and change my mind or not. I really do not care. I win here by doing nothing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

If the non-violent prisoners were released or re-sentenced to GPS and community service, there would be no need to spend $1 billion on renting private prison beds over the next few years.

Brown is more concerned with keeping non-violent prisoners to man fire crews at $1 per day than he is cutting back on the extraordinary power of law enforcement labor unions. He's pandering to them when he refuses to cooperate with the Supreme Court and judges, but the truth is that he has blood on his hands.

Jerry Brown has always been a Republican when it comes to criminal justice matters. His refusal to lighten the sentencing laws is even more evidence that he needs to retire. There are elderly women especially, quadriplegics, people with Alzheimer's who have no idea why they're in prison, white collar people who may or may not have committed a crime. The system is so corrupt that all it takes is an accusation to gain a conviction. How about the Census revealing that six million Californians live beneath the poverty line, the highest rate in the nation. There is a direct link between poverty and crime. We are fools if we re-elect him.

Posted by Guest B. Cayenne Bird on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:44 am

quickly. And since voters affirmed the death penalty in the 2012 elections I say: what are we waiting for?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Couple of years and it's done.

We should hand over our death row to the Feds.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

would you be fine with that too?

Oh, wait. I need to remember who I'm talking to... this is the person who once said blacks should be grateful to Europeans for their enslavement.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

when voters vote down something you like, then it is, er, what exactly?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

No demagoguery please. Just give me a straight answer for once. Is there no limit to what rights can be taken away by majority vote? Slavery? What about property confiscation of the rich? What would you say if the voters voted for that?

Posted by Greg on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive deceptions, reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by blihdro on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

I think that ultimately people have the right to decide what type of society they want, as long as those who do not like it are free to leave. (That's why I oppose communism, for no other reason that it imposes a system but doesn't let people leave if they want to).

Now, I get your point about slavery and segregation having majority support at the time. And I get that the majority shouldn't always get their way. But at the same time such things are ultimately decided by SCOTUS and they are appointed by those we elect, so SCOTUS can never vary too much from the will of the majority.

Your example of the poor voting to confiscate the wealth of the rich is apt, and that is essentially what happened in various parts so Europe. Yet Americans have never really bought into that idea, even though a majority would clearly benefit from it. They just think that's wrong.

Anyway, the problem now is that we have eroded so much of our original system of states' rights. The current situation with gay marriage is appropriate, I think. States that vote for it can have it and those who don't want it don't have it. If you're gay and want to marry, there are plenty of states where you can do that, and you are free to relocate there.

I celebrate the differences between states (and nations) precisely because it means there is somewhere for everyone. I oppose a "one size fits all" approach.

That's my best answer.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

You postulated your original question to me in absurdly simple terms, and yet your own thinking on the matter is extremely convoluted. But what you seem to be saying, once you take out the hyperbole, is that there is nuance. I obviously disagree with your politics, but I agree with you that there should be nuance. So please don't give me this simplistic talking point political-point scoring horseshit, especially when you don't believe that it's so cut and dry yourself.

Speaking of nuance, if you oppose communism because people can't leave if they want to, then you'll be happy to know that as of July, Cubans are now free to emigrate. You can emigrate from Vietnam, too. And from China, come to think of it. In fact, it doesn't seem to me that emigration restrictions are an essential aspect of communism, so I'm guessing that that's not the real reason you oppose it.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

implemented in a way that necessitated restricting people from leaving (along with restricting the press, elections and a whole bunch of other things).

Vietnam and China have liberalized but then they are emerging as capitalist powerhouses so I am not sure that really helps your cause (whatever it is).

But my idea here re the US was that I am fine with a majority of each State imposing their will on a minority as long as that minority is free to leave (unlike Russia and the eastern bloc).

I'm not sure how far I'd go with that. Gay marriage for sure, like I said. Slavery - probably not as that fails the "they can leave" test. But segregation might be OK, again as long as blacks could leave.

Polygamy in Utah? Why not?

People in a jurisdiction have the right to decide how their society should work. So i am for more states' rights, which dovetails elegantly with my desire for a smaller federal government.

Oh, and if that means SF can ban guns and legalise pot, that's fine too. Again, as long as i can leave if I want to.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

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