The Effects of Prison Overcrowding in California prisons
In July 2008, a panel of three federal judges had a meeting to decide on solutions to prison overcrowding. At the same time, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger disclosed that the state was facing a severe budget crisis and declared that the state was in a financial crisis. The panel of three judges threatened to order the release of thousands of inmates blaming unconstitutional treatment of California’s more than 150,000 inmate population. The judges view this as one way of reducing the State’s expenses on the costly corrections system. They proposed the release of thousands of inmates who are currently incarcerated for petty crimes and parole violations. Inmates who they consider as low-risk offenders and not a threat to society. Every year, there seems to be an issue with managing the state’s budget and those responsible fail to realize that we are spending more than we are generating. That simply means that our expenses are more than we have budgeted for and we have exceeded our spending limit.
The main idea of the article is to prove that overcrowding results in unconstitutional treatment of California’s inmates. I chose this article because prison overcrowding has been a major issue in California prisons for the last 20 years. Not only are some correctional facilitates operating at their maximum capacity; some have already exceeded that capacity. “A punishment-only prison policy”. In fact, in California, some gymnasiums have been converted to dormitory-style living to accommodate the ever-increasing inmate population.
Overcrowding in prisons creates competition for limited space and resources, can lead to fighting, aggression, disruptive behavior, stress, suicide, violence, plotting, homosexual activity and the spread of disease among inmates. Although there are opportunities in some prisons for inmates to train and work in skilled areas like auto-mechanics, refrigeration, manufacturing license plates and farming, these programs are limited and not all inmates will or can get the opportunity to participate. Overcrowding has also been attributed to the rise in crime and drug use over the last 20 years and the California Three Strikes law, which carries a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life for repeat offenders. Other contributing factors that lead to the increase in the prison population are population growth, increased arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence.
There were no clear and concise conclusions and recommendations by the author of the article. Malia Wollan, the author reported only on comments from one of the federal judges, a lawyer for the inmates, the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Conclusion and recommendations.
There are some solutions to prison overcrowding that I would recommend; most notably are the design of prison facilities to accommodate the influx of inmates and the reduction of the prison population by developing community based alternatives to incarceration. Community supervision costs much less than incarceration. California’s Three Strikes Law should also be amended to punish repeat ‘violent’ offenders and not just offenders who have committed minor offences that would send them back to prison for life. I would recommend that we stay within our budget and spending limits; grow more of the food that we consume and produce more of the goods and services that we import from other countries.