Prison Overcrowding in California Jeffrey Shaw CJA/564 Josette Ford May 6, 2013 The California prisons have been crowded for decades. This cannot continue to go on. One of the reasons that the prisons are overcrowded is because of the types and lengths of sentences. Other reasons why the prisons are overcrowded is because many of the prisoners are there on non-violent crimes. Also many of the sentences are for smaller crimes. The one recent event that is dealing with this problem is release program that is letting out around 40,000 inmates over the next few years.
This might be a good idea, yet we will not see the results for some time. This can possibly increase the crimes in our counties. There has to be other cures or suggestions that we can use to keep people from going to prison so that they do not add to the overcrowding problem. Something needs to be done now. With today’s struggling economy we cannot afford to have our prisons overcrowded. The Supreme Court decided on May 23, 2011 that the overcrowding of the California prisons was a violation of the Eighth Amendment rights (Brown, Governor of California, et al. v. Plata et al. This decision pushed for the Assembly Bill AB 109 which helped to stop prisoners from going in and out of the state prison system. “ It is the cornerstone of California’s solution for reducing the number of inmates in the state’s 33 prison to 137. 5 percent of design capacity by June 27, 2013, as ordered by the Three-Judge Court and affirmed by the U. S. Supreme Court” (cdcr. ca. gov). According to an article from International Business Times, because of California’s financial situation they are in no position to build new prisons and because they have so many prisoners is the reason why they are out of money. California spends over $10 billion a year jailing and taking care of prisoners” (Romaine, 2011, par 2). Crimes that are non violent and non sexual in nature need to punished another way besides prison time. When these “soft” criminals go to prison they do not get rehabilitated. They only learn how to more of a criminal and they use that knowledge on the outside. They have a tough time intrigrating into society and maintaining their jobs. It does not take long for them to abandon the legit life and go back to crime. Once they do this they usually go all out and commit worse crimes than they did before. Given California’s insane parole violation laws, many first-time offenders become repeat-offenders and simply cycle through the prison system for the rest of their lives” (Romaine, 2011, par 6). One of the main reasons that California and other states’ prisons are overcrowded is because of the “War on Drugs” and the drug offenders in the prisons. Because certain drugs are illegal such as meth, pot, cocaine and heroin it is hard to get. What is meant by this is that they are hard to get legally. Who has the monopoly on the illegal drug industry?
The gangs do. “Any business executive will tell you that monopolizing such a product will guarantee the supplier riches and secure funding for expanding operations” (Romaine, 2011, par 10). There is such a push with the war on drugs that thousands have been sent to prison and has greatly been related to the population problem in the California prisons. As mentioned before, the first solution is already set in place. I do not totally disagree with it. It could work, or help with the overpopulation problem, yet it is too early to tell.
We will see in the near future if the releases of thousands of inmates make the crime rate in California climb. Just as it was hinted in the beginning paragraph, sentences other than prison time need to be handed down for crimes that are of a non-violent and non-sexual nature. In the past decades thousands of people were sentenced to prison for non-violent and non-sexual crimes. These crimes should be sentenced to the county jails, not to the state prisons. If one is sent to a state prison that means that sentence is of one year or more.
Criminals that are sent to county jails are sentenced to less than one year. The sentencing matrix needs to change in California. No one should be sentenced to prison for the lesser crimes. All this is doing is keeping the prison population up to and over 137% full. Instead of a prison sentence; probation, fines and community service can be imposed. New laws can be made so that if the crimes are not murder, rape, molestation and other violent crimes, the sentenced individuals will not spend time in prison. The criminals can spend their time in the county jails or have no jail time at all.
If no jail time is imposed then there will have to be fines, probation and many hours of community service. I believe that the community service has to be directly related to the crimes committed. That way its more meaningful and helpful to the community. References Romaine, J. (2011, may). California Prison Overcrowding: How’s That ‘War on Drugs’ Working Out?. International Business Times,(), . Retrieved from http://www. ibtimes. com/california-prison-overcrowding-hows-war-drugs-working-out-285805 http://www. cdcr. ca. gov/realignment/