California’s Prison System: It’s all about the benjamins

The Los Angeles Times has this effective opinion about California’s exorbitant prison costs:

Lawmakers are crying foul about the added burden on the budget, even though they have no one but themselves to blame. A prison crisis that combines overcrowding, a negligent healthcare program and a crumbling juvenile justice system has been worseningfor three decades, during which time dozens of studies have chronicled the problems and pointed the way to solving them. The reports are now gathering dust on a shelf somewhere, ignored by lawmakers. Indeed, legislators and the electorate have decisively made matters worse by approving get-tough-on-crime initiatives that further cram prisons and do nothing to address conditions inside.

One of the latest studies, released in January 2007 by the independent state oversight agency known as the Little Hoover Commission, is a model of the form. It practically shrieked at lawmakers to implement the needed reforms, which include creating an independent sentencing commission that could lengthen terms for the most dangerous criminals while creating community-based options for nonviolent offenders, reinventing the state’s disastrously inefficient parole system and expanding prison-based drug rehabilitation and job-training programs.

A year later, the Legislature has acted on none of those recommendations. Its sole accomplishment on corrections was to approve $7.9 billion in new prison and jail construction.

Some related posts on the “prison crisis”: