California prisons are overcrowded (168,000 inmates), and cost the taxpayers anywhere from a minimum of $28,000 up to $70,000 a year per inmate. The state needs to do something about it. Part of the proposed state budget is to cut $1.2 billion in prison spending. Once the plan was unveiled as to how that would be accomplished, the debate was on and the prison spending issue more than likely won’t be addressed until August (unless it’s presented as a separate bill and passed). Part of the proposed plan includes the early release of about 27,000 lower level offenders who would serve the remainder of their sentence on home detention with electronic monitoring. As much as I would like to see the prison population decreased, California is moving toward 12% unemployment and, even with signs of the recession easing up a bit, this is not a smart move at this time. Where do released inmates find jobs in a market where college graduates are working at Starbucks and McDonalds or going to continue their education because they can’t find any employment.
California’s rate of return offenders is 60%!, one of the highest in the country. The Unemployment Insurance Program does not apply to those who lost their jobs because of incarceration. Even with monitoring devices, I don’t see this working. There are other provisions of the cuts I do agree with. California prisons also house thousands of illegal immigrant inmates who need to be turned over to federal authorities for deportation. Sentencing laws could use overhauling, changing some non-violent felonies to misdemeanors and utilizing county jails instead of state prisons. I also agree with sending thousands of old and sick inmates to non-prison hospitals that have the means to provide care or for those lifers who are terminally ill—providing the option of volunteer transitioning with a flat sum paid to the remaining family members. Change needs to happen, and it needs to happen sooner than later.