Since Pres. Obama is Talking about Mass Incarceration, Here’s Something I wrote Two Years Ago

It’s Time to Think Outside The Box

Did you know the state of California spends $11.7 b, 11% of the annual budget on incarceration? Which is chimerical at best, because legislators, and many people think that the more money you spend on locking people up, the more you’re deterring crime, but evidence suggests that that’s not close to being true. To be honest, there are exceptions to the rule, but in the vast majority of cases all you’re doing is setting people up for a life of crime. 

The current California criminal justice system as it currently exists, is highly dysfunctional, and inefficient, as far as rehabilitation goes, and also from a budgetary standpoint.

For instance, did you know that California has among the harshest criminal laws in the country, and that there is no evidence that suggests longer sentences deter crime?

Did you know that there are more black people incarcerated right now, than were imprisoned in South Africa during apartheid? And that there are more black people incarcerated right now than were enslaved in 1850?

Leaving aside the fact that if we had a single payer healthcare system (an immediate minimum of 30% in savings per household), and amending Prop 13 and AB 80 to close corporate property tax loopholes — reforming the correctional system is the easiest, most efficient way to save money at a statewide level.

[In April of 2013], I attended a town hall public forum on the state budget process, and how to make the Ca correctional system more efficient, sponsored by State Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, the ACLU of Northern California, and the local chapter of the ACLU. I walked in late (parking was tough), so I just caught the last few moments of Assemblyman Dickinson’s opening comments. His comments are above

Then David Moss and Caitlyn O’Neil, of the ACLU-NC began their presentation. They played a short film bio of David Moss’ travails against drug addiction. Mr. Moss had been arrested 14 times for drug related offenses, which cost the state in excess of $10k per arrest. After the 14th time, a judge in Auburn Ca, asked him why he’d been arrested so many times, Mr. Moss replied that he was an addict. The judge then ordered him into a treatment program, which was a total cost of $7k. Now, I’m not a math wiz or anything, but 7k seems like a much more financially-conservative, prudent, and also a more efficient way of allocating taxpayer dollars than 140k +. And guess what? … He’s been out of trouble ever since.

Did you know that that it costs more money to house a prisoner than it is to educate someone at a UC? You could send two students to UCLA, and still have money left over, for what we spend per prisoner

Did you know that if low level prop offenses were changed from felony to a misdemeanor it would save $30m per year? Taxpayers would save $63m per year if the penalty for being in possession of a small amount of drugs was changed from a felony to a misdemeanor? That we would save $80m per year eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana use?

That’s $174m per year … what else could we spend that on? (not rhetorical)

Did you know that 70% of all people currently housed in cnty jails are in pre-trial and have not been convicted of a crime, and that it costs $100 per day to house them?

Did you know that California has the largest Death Row in the country? And it costs the state $184m per year, and each death row inmate costs $100k more per prisoner than if they were sentenced to life without parole?

Did you know that California at one time was the leader in educating its citizens from pre-school through college, and now ranks dead last in student to teacher ratio? (PDF – California Budget Project Report)

Did you know that just since 2008 California has cut $15 billion from health and social safety net programs

Don’t you think it’s time to do something about the schools to prison pipeline?

California once led the US, and for that matter, the world, in educating its citizens, and in its infrastructure. Not only of physical civil works projects, but in imagining, then creating new and better realities. It was at the forefront in new and exciting discoveries, and from that, industries. The California dream was really an intellectual dynamism born from creativity of what we wanted the greater good and future to be.

I think we can do that again


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