How do you solve rising crime rates and overpopulated prisons? Easy, stop prosecuting and sending people to jail.
How do you make it look like crime isn’t an issue in your state? Embolden police and support them? Get tough on prosecution? Institute stiff penalties for severe offenses in order to deter others?
Not in California.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s latest idea is to close a prison down and release the inmates back into the community.
According to the Modesto Bee, California Governor hosted a conversation earlier this month to discuss what he believes to be a viable solution to addressing corrections and rehabilitation within the state, simply saying that he would like to close down a prison.
Newsom approached that avenue while having a broader conversation on criminal justice reform, but even he knows that you can’t just close a prison out of nowhere and not expect some backlash.
When going into his plan on prison reform, Newsom acknowledged that there are inevitable caveats with simply gunning to close down a prison.
“I would like to see, in my lifetime and hopefully my tenure, that we shut down a state prison, but you can’t do that flippantly. And you can’t do that without the support of the unions, support of these communities, the staff, and that requires an alternative that can meet everyone’s needs and desires.”
Closing a state prison is one of the few ways to truly save a lot of money in California’s correctional system, which has a budget of $15.8 billion this year, according to experts.
With a state that runs approximately 35 prisons, that cost saving could be to the tune of roughly $45 million a year when averaged out. But it begs the question of what happens to the inmates? Are they simply released or are they transferred elsewhere within the state’s overcrowded prisons?
Newsom emphasized with his choice of words to the editorial board during the meeting, highlighting that it’s difficult to actually close down a prison. California’s correctional system has been under the supervision of a federal court since 2009, when a three-judge panel ordered it to address and reduce severe overcrowding within the installations throughout the state.
The prisons are still above capacity, and moving some inmates to county jails has created its own set of problems for local governments. The correctional officers’ union, representing about 28,000 officers, is a powerful political force.
Within communities like Blythe, which has a population of fewer than 20,000 residents and two prison facilities within the city, prisons are critical to the local economy; so there is possible backlash from that aspect as well.
The prison that California lawmakers have most often discussed about closing over the years is the state’s oldest, San Quentin. The aging facility on San Francisco Bay’s north shore in was built back in 1852.
Merely five years after its construction, legislators first suggested shutting it down when it was consuming a large mass of the state budget, according to an academic paper published three years ago by W. David Ball, an associate professor at Santa Clara University Law School.
More recently, finances drove numerous pitches to close San Quentin during the recessions of 2001 and 2008. At least four bills didn’t clear the Legislature in the four years leading up to 2009. Lawmakers have suggested San Quentin’s real estate could sell for $1 billion to $2 billion if they decided to close it down.
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However, Newsom didn’t dive too deep into financial aspects of closing facilities down, he simply wanted to discuss how releasing inmates could do the community good. While he did mention that released inmates should have accessible societal reintegration programs, which can be genuinely good for a community, he didn’t expand upon people who still had years to serve for the crimes they willingly committed.
Newsom didn’t say which prison he might be thinking about closing during the discussion. Yet, if prisons are overcrowded it means that there’s still a need for them, not that they need to be shut down to save coin and simply forget that people committed crimes.
It’s one thing to close a prison when it’s simply no longer needed, it’s something else to close it down because one thinks people shouldn’t be in prison. You don’t achieve a better society by lowering the bar for what is criminal or acceptable behavior in that society.
If California wanted to save some money, they should just stop suing Trump.
More than 60 lawsuits filed by California against the Trump administration in less than three years have cost the state’s taxpayers $21 million, and has shattered Texas’s record of suing the Obama administration 48 times, according to reports.
Bear in mind that the previous record set by Texas was over an 8-year span, and Trump has only been in office for 3 years. California is on pace, at that rate of comparison, to file more than 150 suits, amassing close to $100 million against taxpayer funds.
Fox News reports that their sources indicate that California’s Attorney General’s suits are solely political in nature.
“Since Trump took office in 2017, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the administration over issues including Trump’s travel ban, protecting DACA and sanctuary cities, fighting family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border and plans to construct the border wall, according to FOX 40 of Sacramento.
Earlier this year, California challenged Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the southern border and most recently, Becerra sued the administration over the rollback of the Endangered Species Act.”
Republican strategist Tim Rosales says Becerra’s lawsuits are more about politics than policy, FOX 40 reported.
“This is politics,” he told the station. “It’s politics by Becerra. He wants to make a national name for himself. He wants to get himself on the evening news and this is how you do it if you’re the attorney general of California.”
He added that the Trump campaign is fundraising off California’s lawsuits in every other state.
“He’s gaining support in dozens of other states that look at California and they say, ‘Hey, look what California is doing,’” Rosales said. “And California is kind of leading the way in terms of the progressive left and the far left, and that’s where we’re at right now.”
Becerra’s office claims the state’s lawsuits have never added up to more than 1 percent of the state Department of Justice’s budget.
“He’s protecting our values,” Democratic political consultant Ed Emerson told FOX 40. “Separating children from their families, detaining them for unlimited amounts of time and keeping them in cages. This is not who we are, and California has to step in.”
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