Prison overcrowding from an inmate’s perspective

Aerial view of San Quentin State Prison, in Sa...
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By Crosscurrents Producer

Listen: 2:39 min (Download Audio)

Behind the walls of San Quentin, prison inmate Richard Gilliam has been sharing his commentaries with us as a Community Correspondent. Today he’s voicing his thoughts on prison overcrowding.

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RICHARD GILLIAM: Today in the United States, 2.2 million people are behind bars. That’s nearly one in 50 people, excluding the children and the elderly. This averages out to 714 per 100,000. Nearly 7 million people are currently under the supervision of a correctional apparatus, be it jail, prison, parole, probation or some sort of community correctional facility. Our incarceration rate of 714 per 100,000 is five to 12 times the rate of Western Europe or Japan. This is according to Marie Gottschalk, professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Blacks, who make up about 13% of the U.S. population, comprise more than half of all people in prison. So while the overall incarceration rate is 714 per 100,000, the rate for black males in the United States is actually 6,838 per 100,000.

Think about this: in California at the current estimated cost of about $50,000 per year to house each prisoner, the tax payers are paying significantly more than if all those men and women were placed on public assistance. We can’t afford to continue this trend. School budgets have repeatedly been cut, spending on social programs has steadily dwindled, money for fire and police departments has been slashed, and local and state governments are wrestling with huge deficits. Some of this can be attributed to the billions of dollars it costs to house long term prisoners, and in California, the recidivism rate has hovered around 80% for years, meaning the same men and women keep coming back.

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3 thoughts on “Prison overcrowding from an inmate’s perspective

  1. My 37 year old son is a lifer and has been in prison for seventeen years. He has been housed in dormitories level two’s for the last six years. He just had his third parole hearing. In 2008 the Parole Board said that if he continued to program he would be going home soon and then gave him a two years denial. Last month he went back before the Board different commissioner’s of course. After almost seven hours of them and the L.A. district Attorney beating him up verbally, they gave him a seven year denial “thanks to the Marcy’s Law”. How do you go from a 2yr to a 7yr with all outstanding history? Lifer’s are required to have vocation’s, education, Job offer’s, housing, a good solid parole plan. They must attend A.A. & N.A. meetings; even if they never had those kind of problems. They have done more than their required time. Why don’t they start with letting out the lifer’s first? Maybe if the short timers had to work a program, get pysch evaluations, complete all the self help classes and had all those years under their belt without getting into trouble; they wouldn’t come back! Lifer’s are the ones growing old and racking up the medical expense’s. It’s the victim’s rights people; even with the court giving the inmate life with the possibility of parole they want them to die in prison and never get out!! All they have to do is make a good show to the board and it doesn’t matter that a lifer that came in with a 7th grade education; rehabilitated himself, earned two Phd’s and several other degree’s, has a perfect record, massive support and could be sent back to Canada! Oh, did I mention after years of asking to see Dr’s and no one caring, come to find out he has three types of terminal Cancers and is now dying and they still won’t send him home. His last hearing a year ago he was given a five year denial. He was given a 15 year to Life w/parole and has been in 21years. My husband that was a Pharmacist for 30 years went back to school at 50 to become a Lawyer so he could help our son. So we are helping other lifer’s and let me tell you! These are not bad guys; there are some but most made one bad mistake. They are forced to live with these stupid punks that are not required to do anything. Their date and time comes and the door flys open for them. Then just a few months later they are back, laughing and thinking it’s a big joke. People need to hear the truth; there isn’t a revolving door for a lifer, no free ride, they have more self control then people out on the streets everyday. Maybe everyone should have the same requirements to be released. Then get rid of the parole board they are just a dog and pony show and a waste of tax payers money. Oh, once in awhile they will throw out a date; only to be taken back by the Governor. Even after the court orders the board to release these inmates they just laugh in their face. My husband represents Lifer’s at these hearing and has seen it first hand. After they were given a date, taken away, court orders them back to another hearing with instructions of what they cannot do; they do it anyways, daring the judge to hold them in contempt. Then they are given a three year denial. This is insanity. But the inmate’s and their family endure it; because nothing is as valuble as ones freedom. For Lifer’s they once believed they lived in the land of the free. It has become more like concentration camps! In less you have a loved one in the big brother system; no one seems to care about these people. However you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to get locked up these days, even if you are completely innocent. All it takes is a D.A. that wants to solve a case,to be promoted, put on a good drama show for the jury and a snitch or two and you have a gulity verdict. You say, what about the truth? Ha-ha…they don’t want the truth they want to lock up a warm body and if it’s a murder charge?? Even though it should of been self defense or no more than a manslaughter? No way they will take a chance on the murder charge, it’s like winning the lotto for the state. They get a life sentence. When was the last time you saw anyone get a manslaughter? Not anymore. It’s all a game to these people. They have the power and once they have you; well it’s a very scary place to be; a place of no return and you and your families life will never be the same. Thank you and people be careful out there our world has changed and you have no rights, big brother just let’s you think you do.


  2. When I went to County after my arrest. I slept on the floor for 8 weeks, until a bed became available. I am a Disabled Vet with 20 years in the Military. Yes that is not what I expected. I was later transfered to 13 prisons total through out the USA. All because they didn’t have bed space available. It cost the Tax Payers BIG Time. And moving so much, you loose the family contact.
    Why don’t they have the same housing code as the other buildings people live in? Also 10% of the population are VET just like me.


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