Guest view: Early release: Do the crime, do some of the time
August 22, 2009
Recently, the Legislature passed a package of budget revisions to help California resolve its $26 billion budget crisis. The revisions included $1.2 billion in cuts to the Department of Corrections budget, but it was left to the Legislature to decide how to make them. Yesterday, the Senate approved a controversial cuts package that includes the release of thousands of incarcerated criminals. As of this writing early Thursday evening, the Assembly has not yet voted on this reckless package.
I hope my colleagues in the California State Assembly don’t make the same mistake by passing this dangerous plan.
I know that there are ways to cut the corrections budget responsibly. We can cut corrections spending in a way that does not put Northern California families at risk.
But the partisan liberal majority at the State Capitol takes a different approach. They have pushed for the early release of 27,000 dangerous criminals before they have completed their sentences as their approach to cut corrections spending. I believe this is irresponsible.
The Democrat legislative leadership in Sacramento claims that the only people who will be released are low-risk offenders, and those convicted of non-serious or non-violent crimes. But when you look at some of the crimes that are considered non-serious and non-violent, you will see that some very dangerous individuals could be turned loose if they have their way. Human trafficking, injurious child abuse, stalking and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction are just a few of the crimes considered non-serious or non-violent.
We know that the real impact of early release on our region and our state will not be reducing the budget, but causing more innocent people to become victims of crime.
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California law enforcement officials have relied upon the January 2009 RAND Corporation study to conclude that the average prisoner on early release will likely commit 13 new crimes before being re-arrested.
Rather than release criminals before they have paid their debt to society or been properly rehabilitated, I believe it is our responsibility to look at other means of decreasing the bloated budget of the Department of Corrections.
We should start by making necessary cuts to the administrative costs of running our prisons. Since 2005, the costs of running our prisons have risen by 105 percent. This seems odd considering that the overall population of our prisons is actually trending down. During that same time span, the overall prison population in California has dropped by 5 percent. I am not a trained accountant, but it seems to me that if you have a lower population to worry about, it should cost less to care for inmates and not more.
Another area that should be looked at is the rising costs of health care in our prison system. From 1997 to 2008, health medical care costs rose 325 percent. Inmates should not receive a premium health care package while so many others scrape together money to pay for their own health care, or have no health coverage at all.
Rather than allow inmates out early because of budget issues, we need to cut the out-of-control spending on administrative costs and prisoner healthcare.
Using early release as a method to balance the books is unconscionable. When you elected me to the State Assembly, you put your trust in me to keep your family, our neighborhoods and our communities safe and sound. I will do whatever I can to stop the nightmare of early release from becoming a reality for Northern California families.
– Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, represents the 4th Assembly District in the California Legislature.
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