By Brian Leubitz
California Progress Report
In case you hadn’t noticed, we are pretty much at the moment of perfect storm for the prisons. They are wildly overcrowded, and generally wild. They are the subject of Supreme litigation to release 40,000 prisoners. They are costing us more than we are spending on our higher education systems, and oh, yeah, there’s the fact that we face about $30 Billion of debt.
So you would think that this would be a fantastic opportunity to try to do something about the prison situation. For years, the voters and politicians of the state have been scared of doing anything other than trading on fear. Working on new solutions was considered too risky.
Thing is, while I was working for Kamala Harris‘ campaign, I learned that somebody forgot to tell her that. Instead, she has throughout her career as SF DA been willing to look at new ways to make this a safer world, rather than just the politically safe ways of locking up every offender and trying to keep the keys far away.
And perhaps we are seeing more Californians noticing that we, in fact, have a few problems here. From today’s LA Times:
“Smart on Crime” is something of a Harris franchise, the name of her 2009 book. In it, and during her campaign, Harris argued that criminal justice money is wasted on the “revolving door” that prison has become as 70% of the 120,000 convicts released annually end up being caught committing new crimes.
She believes that prison should be the punishment for serious offenders and that greater pains should be taken to prod milder offenders with education, counseling, probation and other community-based support.
“I firmly believe in and advocate accountability and consequences when you are talking about rapists and murderers and child molesters – you’ve got to lock them up,” she said. “But you’ve also got to look at the fact that crime is not monolithic.” (LA Times)
However, we can’t really think that whatever changes are going to be either quick or easy. At the same time this story (entitled “The time may be right for Kamala Harris”) was published, we get a story of Jerry Brown‘s fealty to the prison guards union (CCPOA).