Report: CA Governor considering shutting down two state prisons, all juvenile prisons and more

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SACRAMENTO, CA– In a mixture of budget concerns and shortfalls and philosophies, it appears that Governor Gavin Newsom is considering closing a large number of prisons in the state. 

His recent revised budget sent to state congress included permanently closing two state prisons, all three juvenile prisons, and cutting out 20% of the 43 inmate firefighter prison camps.

This, of course, has California citizens puzzled, bewildered, and likely scared as thousands of inmates have been released due to COVID-19 concerns and crime had skyrocketed due to unreformed prisoners re-entering society. 

Add to that shrinking the number of adult prisons and totally eliminating juvenile prisons, along with reducing the number of prisoners used in California’s all-too-common forest fires, and you appear to have a complete recipe for disaster along several fronts.

But wait, there’s more.

Don Thompson with the Washington Times reports more calamity on the horizon:

“He’s also seeking unspecified increases to sentencing credits that allow inmates to leave prison more quickly.

“And he proposes to shorten parole to a maximum of two years, down from five years for felonies, and let ex-felons earn their way off supervision in just a year, or 18 months for sex offenders.”

Back to the philosophy element in all of this. Newsom considers it a “core value” of his administration to reduce the number of prisons and invest more in education. 

While that may seem like a novel and profound position, it has taken decades to create the level of societal decay that is present in California and it would take decades to reverse the issues, provided they could be reversed at all.

The Times said:

“The proposals drew support from reformers, condemnation from crime victims’ advocates, and resistance from county officials who said they can’t take in the serious juvenile offenders who now go to state-run lockups.”

California state officials have shown mixed reactions to the proposals:

“Those sent to state facilities ‘have the most serious needs, which if left unaddressed, pose the most serious risk to our communities,’ said Brian Richart, president of Chief Probation Officers of California, whose members already handle about 90% of youthful offenders. “We are not financially and structurally prepared for it’…”

Daniel Macallair, Executive Director of the Center On Juvenile And Criminal Justice had an opposite reaction:

“To reduce the number of people in confinement, we need to reduce the institutions of confinement.”

Many people are having trouble believing, however, that if you close the jails, somehow crime will stop.  They say that’s just not how it works and, in fact, it should have the opposite effect.

Christine Ward, Director of the Crime Victims Alliance, in reference to cutting parole and probation programs, said:

“We’re not talking about your small-time drug dealer.  We’re talking about the most serious and violent felons in our state.”

Brian Richart, president of Chief Probation Officers of California, said that his members already handle about 90% of youth offenders. He said:

“[Those sent to state facilities] have the most serious needs, which if left unaddressed, pose the most serious risk to our communities. We are not financially and structurally prepared for it.”

To that, Newsom retorted that there is still plenty of room in the state’s youth offender programs, including juvenile halls, camps and ranches. They’re designed to hold a maximum number of 11,200, and currently have 3,600 enrolled.

His proposal includes grants of $10 million annually to counties that will act as “hubs,” treating youths that are currently locked up due to crimes committed that are attributed to serious sex behavior or mental health treatment needs.

Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, which is a group that advocates for shorter prison sentences, said:

“[The proposed budget] reflects what California voters have known for a long time – that continued wasteful spending on failed prisons is bad for safety and our budgets.”

State Senator John Moorlach, who is an accountant and also the ranking Republican on two corrections oversight committees, said that, while the cost savings would be ideal, the Governor is forgetting about the people employed by those prisons.

The Times spoke on Moorlach’s views:

“Prisons are often remote communities’ major employer, he cautioned, saying the governor is also imperiling unionized prison employees.” 

Moorlach suggested that it might be more cost effective to expand the use of private prisons, which the state has said they’ll be ending.

Their have been two schools of thought for years regarding prisons and criminal reform. Some say that prisons don’t work and should be abolished in favor of mass government-funded rehabilitative programs. Some say that the primary purpose of prisons is retribution and, while rehabilitating criminals is important, so is obtaining justice for crime victims and their families.

What do you think? Should prisons be mainly abolished? Should prison sentences for violent crimes be increased? Or is there a happy medium that society has yet to find that we should continue to work towards?

Let us know in the comments- maybe you have the solution we need that makes sense for all sides.

In the Washington Times article referenced above, the author mentions that California crime has “generally decreased” since prisoners have been released due to COVID-19 concerns.

Last week, Law Enforcement Today staff writer Gregory Hoyt brought you a report that contradicts the statement out of Santa Ana, CA. Here it is again in case you missed it.

 
SANTA ANA, CA – Seems to be a bit of correlation between directing nearly everyone to adorn face masks akin to those donned by bandits emblazoned on 19th century wanted posters and the robbery rate. At least that seems to be the case with regard to the city of Santa Ana.

With a 50% uptick in robberies in Santa Ana since the announcement of state Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order delivered in March, it can make one wonder if there happens to be a connection with masks adorned and said robberies.

Elias Khawan, the owner of a local gas station in Santa Ana recounted how one of his clerks was recently robbed at gunpoint by a suspect donning a hat accompanied by an accomplice wearing a face covering:

“We’re sitting here not knowing who’s going to walk through that door.”

Having been the owner and operator of the gas station for some 17 years, he’s noted that the recent times have created dangers unlike anything he’s seen before:

“It’s horrible. I mean, I know we have to take certain measures because of what’s happening with COVID-19, but it’s the perfect script or manual for a robber — the mask, the sunshade and a hoodie. You don’t know who’s coming, who’s walking in.”

Khawan noted that the gas station used to be open for 24 hours. But, with concerns for his staff’s safety in light of everyone wearing masks these days, he’s changed the operating hours to have the store close at 10:00 p.m.:

“They’re very scared. I have two employees who said, ‘No, we don’t want to work at nighttime.’”

How could anyone blame the employees for their fears? With essentially everyone being encouraged to wear the likes of face masks and coverings, it inevitably creates an emboldening opportunity for those with criminal intent.

Corporal Anthony Bertagna from the Santa Ana Police Department commented that bandana-wearing miscreants are often the ones seen involved in gas station and convenience store robberies:

“It’s the norm. So we’re seeing more [and] more suspects wearing the mask and using that to their benefit.”

While Santa Ana has seen robberies increase, possibly due to the encouragement of everyone being advised to employ a means to cover their nose and mouth, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is telling locals that masks are going to be the new normal for some time.

The news was delivered by the governor on May 13th, noting that residents of Los Angeles will have to wear a face mask – with the exception of small children and those toting various disabilities – whenever they’re out and about:

“And as long as you’re not doing a solitary activity or with your own household, put that mask on. Always now.”

That directive must serve as music to a would-be burglar’s ears. We’ve gone from the days when people would be told to remove their Halloween masks on said night when entering stores to now not being allowed to enter stores while partially concealing your identity.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

What’s the worst that could happen?

Law Enforcement Today contributor Leonard Sipes was concerned about this very possibility back in early April. Here’s his take on the possible ramifications of the encouraged masks for everyone to adorn that he drafted back on April 5th: 

There are endless implications regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. At the moment, crime seems to be holding steady or decreasing while three out of four Americans are under some form of a lockdown. But there is concern in the US and throughout the world regarding the possibility of increasing crime and spouse or child abuse.

Fraud seems to be exploding. A disruption in the world’s illegal drug market could have a profound effect on supply and price and could lead to a rise in crime. Drug treatment is on hold.

Police and correctional officers are becoming infected. People are suggesting that inmates be released. Extremists are viewing the pandemic as an opportunity, Coronavirus And Crime.

But beyond the headlines, there are responses and questions posed by law enforcement and correctional personnel that take the pandemic in different directions.

Masks For Everyone:

A question from a law enforcement representative. President Trump said on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear masks on a voluntary basis when they leave their homes. Her question is whether criminals will take advantage of the CDC’s suggestion and what that means for victimization?

If everyone is wearing a mask or an improvised face covering, will this embolden criminals to take advantage of the guidance? Will they avoid detection during and after a crime?

There are hundreds of media reports suggesting that jails and prisons release anyone not deemed to be a threat to public safety to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak within correctional facilities. Per multiple media reports, there are facilities and officers with virus issues, Coronavirus And Corrections.

Before the pandemic, violence was rising, Violence.

Will masks and head coverings become an issue? A group of suspected thieves who dressed as FedEx workers to steal goods were all arrested in Connecticut this week — including one of them twice — when residents stuck at home became suspicious and called police. According to The Hartford Courant, police found two unopened iPhones in their car, which the caller said had been stolen from her porch.

After two members of the group were arrested, charged and released, one of them was arrested again, along with an accomplice, that same night. The accused thieves had FedEx shirts and were wearing surgical masks and gloves.

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