Linda, our lawyer and defense attorney, suggested this topic, since a lot has happened recently in California’s effort at “realignment;” a.k.a., relieving prison overcrowding by releasing some prisoners and shifting responsibility for others to the local level. There’s concern over whether it’s being done right (including with enough resources) and whether it could endanger the public.
Linda will open us up on Monday night with an explanation of what’s been happening. In brief, in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that this state’s prison system was so overcrowded that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The Court ordered California to find a way to relieve (part of) the overcrowding ASAP, and the state has been working on it. The legislature passed a law, AB-109, that would have released some prisoners and transferred a ton of money to county and local governments to house some of them in local jails and to monitor others that would be released on parole. The whole situation kind of blew up in January, when Governor Brown announced that – even though the goal of going down to 137% of state prison capacity has not been reached – that CA has done enough and would not meet the goal. He has since backtracked from this open defiance of court orders, and he just announced a plan to get us the rest of the way there.
I’m looking forward to learning more about this from Linda, and also to discussing criminal justice more broadly. Everybody thinks that crime control = imprisonment. But, pre- and post-incarceration aspects of crime control are just as important. After all, about 95% of people that go to prison get released eventually and keeping them from re-offending is a major part of the game.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What has the state been doing to relieve prison overcrowding, through AB-109 and other measures?
- Are these actions working? Will they lead to more or less crime? Could this really endanger the public?
- Why is Governor Brown challenging the court rulings now? What is in his latest (early May 2013) plan to complete the process?
- What are the lessons of all this for incarceration policy and crime control in general? Is the public finally ready to end the era of mass incarceration as the primary solution to the crime problem? What could replace it?
- The Economist magazine summarizes CA’s prison realignment issue as of mid-2012.
- A 4-page pdf Fact Sheet on Realignment (from CA Dept. corrections, so it’s highly optimistic)
- The latest as of April (NYT) and May (SJ Mercury News) of 2013. A journalist slams Brown for defying the courts.
- Your always optional think tank longer reads: