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Philip Smith writes California Corrections "Realignment" Not Nearly Enough:

Faced with a staggering budget deficit and a prison overcrowding crisis, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature have approved legislation that would shift responsibility for low-level, nonviolent offenders and parole violators from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the state's counties. But sentencing and drug reform advocates say the measure merely shifts the burden of the state's corrections overcrowding from the state to the counties, fails to fund crime prevention services like drug treatment, and fails to include real sentencing reforms. ...

But the law will not go into effect unless and until the legislature approves and funds a community corrections grant program, something Republicans in the legislature have opposed. ...

The cost of corrections in California is staggering. Gov. Brown's proposed Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget funds the prison system to the tune of $9.19 billion, nearly 7.2% of the entire state budget. And the war on drugs is responsible for a hefty portion of it.

The state prison system holds a whopping 144,000 inmates, including more than 28,000 drug offenders and more than 1,500 marijuana offenders. Of those 28,000 drug offenders, 9,000 are there for simple drug possession at a cost of $450 million a year, or about $4.5 billion over the past decade. That figure doesn't include the cost of re-incarcerating parole violators who have been returned to prison for administrative violations, such as failing drug tests, so the actual cost of drug law enforcement to the prison system is even higher. ...

"This plan is a shell game that would simply shift corrections costs from the state to the counties without addressing the real problem: California is locking up too many people for low-level offenses for too long," said Allen Hopper, police practices director with the ACLU of Northern California. "The cost of mass incarceration is robbing the people of California of vitally needed services, including education and healthcare. What we need is real sentencing reform, such as shortening the sentences for simple possession drug crimes. It's time for California to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars incarcerating people who pose no threat to public safety." ...

"Any California corrections reform must include sentencing reform," said Kris Lev-Twombly, director of programs at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. "A felony conviction is a life-long sentence that should not be applied to low-level offenses. No matter how old the conviction, people with a felony on their record will face significantly diminished employment opportunities and much lower lifetime earnings. They may also be prohibited from accessing student loans, food stamps and other public assistance. This works against individual, family and community well-being and public safety."

• • • • •

At Daily Kos on this date in 2003:

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
As I listen to yet another excuse from Donald Rumsfeld, I realize that Bush and his advisors will go to any length, bear any burden to avoid responsibility for their actions.

What astounds me, as Iraqis die in looted hospitals, a tragedy we created, is the way Rumsfeld and the PNAC cabal ran to embrace victory even as the mobs were looting the streets of most Iraqi cities. They sought to portray a crowd of 100 as a massive outpouring of liberation as a US tank pulled down a statue of Saddam. More people are gathered around a fountain in Washington Square Park on a warm spring day when class is in session at NYU.

The way the Bushies have tried to play off the chaos resulting from their actions is astounding. Not surprising, but astounding all the same. Because it is undermining their moral standing, not only in the wider world, but in Iraq. They are losing the middle class, what there is of it, as field commanders embrace militia leaders and expect people to work for free.

• • • • •

Looking for an interesting diary to read? Try kevinpowell's In Defense of Ashley Judd.

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