Sentencing reform key to prisoner reduction plan

May 23, 2011

California is most likely to dramatically shrink its inmate population by changing who goes to prison in the first place, not by mass release of convicted felons. [CaliforniaWatch]

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning narrowly upheld an appellate court ruling that ordered the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce its prisoner count to 137 percent capacity, or about 109,462 inmates, within two years.

The five year plan, filed with the federal court in November 2009, achieves its reductions mostly through sentencing reforms. The bulk of the population decrease is estimated to come within 18 months of implementation, according to California Watch.

California prisoner numbers are projected to decline by adding “no-prison” felonies that would result in prison terms of less than 366 days, alternatives to custody, a more generous credits system and far fewer parolees re-entering. Shorter sentences would allow people convicted of seven felony counts to serve time in county jails, rather than state prisons.

The crimes include:

•    Possession of a controlled substance, including cocaine.
•    Possession of a controlled substance, including methamphetamine.
•    Check fraud.
•    Miscellaneous grand theft.
•    Receiving stolen property.
•    Petty theft with a prior conviction of a certain offense.
•    Theft with a prior felony of a certain offense.

The plan also continues the moving of some inmates to out-of-state facilities.

The law will ultimately shift inmates convicted of offenses deemed non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual (the “triple-nons” for short) to county jails. Keeping that population out of state prisons would save California’s general fund an estimated $458 million, according to the governor’s office, and significantly ease overcrowding at the state corrections facilities, California Watch said.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy says, “Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result. Over the whole course of years during which this litigation has been pending, no other remedies have been found to be sufficient.

“Efforts to remedy the violation have been frustrated by severe overcrowding in California’s prison system. Short-term gains in the provision of care have been eroded by the long-term effects of severe and pervasive overcrowding.”

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia talks about releasing a menacing population.

“It is also worth noting the peculiarity that the vast majority of inmates most generously rewarded by the release order – the 46,000 whose incarceration will be ended – do not form part of any aggrieved class even under the Court’s expansive notion of constitutional violation,” the dissent says. “Most of them will not be prisoners with medical conditions or severe mental illness; and many will undoubtedly be fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym.”



  1. LittleAcorn says:

    I’m not impressed by the state saving money by having some offenders sent to county jails. It may be a good idea to have additional offenses addressed on the county level, but it won’t save the taxpayers any money.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  2. choprzrul says:

    Why are they focusing on reducing prison sentences & population rather than reducing crime in the first place? For roughly 100 years we have outsourced our personal security to police departments. You only have to look around and read articles like this one to immediately understand that this system is an utter failure. Police are great at investigating and solving crime. They are absolutely terrible at preventing crime. Even the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that police are under no obligation to respond to you call for help. They will gladly come and take a report after the fact, but are almost always behind the curve when crime is about to happen or is actively happening.

    Former Yale Professor John Lott has studied the rate of crime in every US county, and most other countries, and how it relates to rates of gun ownership & concealed carry rates. There is absolute firm evidence that an armed populace reduces crime rates. His book, More Guns, Less Crime, is now in its third edition and has never been scientifically refuted since it came out in 1998. So, to recap:

    Pro Gun == Anti Crime

    Anti Gun == Pro Crime

    Enter our current situation here in SLO county:

    1) Sheriff Parkinson won’t issue a concealed carry permit to someone who doesn’t live in a rural area.
    2) Local police chiefs almost universally refuse to issue permits.
    3) The prisons can’t contain the criminals, so they are being released back into society.
    4) Constitutionally, the police are under no obligation to respond to your call for help.
    5) Should the police respond, when seconds count, they are just minutes away.
    6) The McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court decision established that the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental, individual, civil right.

    It looks to me like some California law enforcement officials need to take a real close look at CA Civil Code 52.3:

    (a) No governmental authority, or agent of a governmental authority, or person acting on behalf of a governmental authority,shall engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives any person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States or by the Constitution or laws of California.

    Now, go take a look at 18 USC 241 and 18 USC 242.

    Can you say “time for a class action suit….”

    Sentencing reform is NOT the answer to prisoner reduction. Allowing the populace to exercise their civil rights WILL reduce crime and subsequently the prison population. It is time for everyone to take responsibility for their own personal security.

    (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      You sound like Ted Nugent. In all due respect,,,thats a bunch of hogwash. You can find a study to say what ever you want. I can find studies that say that guns cause more violence and if you doubt that then I’ll find 5 tomorrow if I have time. It just takes common sense. I don’t remember the year but in recent years Tokyo had one gun death in one year. One of the most is not the most populated cities in the world ONE gun death. They have total gun control,,, no guns. Third world countries that have NO gun control have high rates of gun deaths, Somalia, the Middle Eastern countries etc.. I’m not for taking guns away, but I am for strict safe gun ownership and cooling off periods.

      I do agree that although not in all cases but in many that sentences aren’t always the answer and that prevention goes further than punishment (in many cases). We just have different ideas on what that means.

      (-3) 3 Total Votes - 0 up - 3 down
      • r0y says:

        Guns don’t cause violence, typo. People do. Take away their guns, and they’ll move to knives and baseball bats. Ideas and intents are the sources of violence – occasionally, there is an accident, but that cannot be counted as violence.

        I would be interested in some of those 5 studies; as I’ve seen it (here in the United States), most of the crime-ridden cities are ones with the strictest gun control laws (Chicago, D.C., NYC, LA, etc). However, I am open to scientific studies that would tell me otherwise.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
        • Typoqueen says:

          Oh please, you people that don’t believe in gun control need a new mantra ie ‘guns don’t kill people people do’, that one is too old and stale.

          Somehow I’m not sure if I believe your last sentence and I’m sure the silence might be defening after this but oh well here goes. Quotes are from the studies:

          “researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that homicide rates among children, and among women and men of all ages, are higher in states where more households have guns. The study appears in the February 2007 issue of Social Science and Medicine.
          This is in the following study as well:

          “States with higher gun ownership rates and weak gun laws have the highest rates of overall gun death”

          “The United States has far higher rates of firearm deaths-firearm homicides, firearm suicides, and unintentional firearm deaths compared with other high-income countries”

          “On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault.”

          “Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.”

          (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
          • choprzrul says:

            You know what really matters? What really matters is civil rights. Let me recap for you in case you haven’t been paying attention:

            1) Keep firearms == Civil Right
            2) Bear firearms == Civil Right
            3) Self Defense == Civil Right

            Reference the United States Constitution, US Supreme Court decision Heller v. District of Columbia, and US Supreme Court decision McDonald v. Chicago.

            If you advocate in favor of limiting gun ownership, possession, carry, and/or use in self defense; you are in fact advocating oppression of my civil rights. People who seek to oppress someone else’s civil rights are commonly referred to as bigots.

            Allow the law abiding citizen the opportunity to keep and bear functional firearms for the purpose of self defense and you will have far fewer victims and far fewer criminals to incarcerate.

            Now, typoqueen, are you pro civil rights or are you anti civil rights???

            (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
            • Typoqueen says:

              “Allow the law abiding citizen the opportunity to keep and bear functional firearms for the purpose of self defense and you will have far fewer victims ”

              You don’t have to read those studies that I put up there but if you just read the post then you’d see that you are wrong. We allow citizens to have firearms and we have more victims because of unchecked gun ownership and under regulation.

              How about my civil rights? How about the congress woman in AZ’s rights? Do we not have aright to be safe from wacka doodles playing with guns? So you feel that by taking away the guns of people such as the nut that shot the congress woman that we are taking away his civil rights and she doens’t deserve or have the right to be safe.

              I am pro civil rights,,,my right to keep my family safe. So where do we draw the line, do you have a right to own an atom bomb? Do you have a right to have a drivers licence even if you can’t pass the test? People need rules and they need limits so we may have a safe society.

              I am not for taking guns away. I am for cooling off periods. I am for through background checks and I’m for gun safety courses for all first time buyers, God knows that Dick Cheney’s victim would have appreciated that.

              (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. willie says:

    Why is the government and inmates so against privatizing?

    (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
    • zaphod says:

      Because they cut corners to increase the revenue, profits before human beings, a judge in Penn. is going to prison for sentencing juveniles to a certain private facility kick backs there is a very good and honest reason we have a STATE to protect human beings from each other and business interests, if you think it is corrupt prison unions are bad just let the private corporations take over, Weimarization

      (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
    • choprzrul says:

      Contract out incarceration to Mexican companies for ten cents on the $$. Make prison a destination that is to be avoided. Break the prison guards union. Save the CA taxpayer bucket loads of tax dollars.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • r0y says:

        Why Mexico? China is a much more affordable solution.

        I’d like to see hard labor re-introduced. A life-time of it. No time for TV or working out, games or shankings, etc. Turn big rocks into little rocks – anything. We don’t see chain gangs around anymore – solve our infrastructure problem and help our prison system out at the same time!

        We could take DoT and local improvement monies earmarked for road improvement (the basics – not bridge-building, they are prisoners after all) and pay the penal system for it’s labors. Save the taxpayers money twice-over!

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

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