Is the release of 46,000 inmates from California prisons because of budget cuts a sign of dark days ahead for our nation?
Under a Supreme Court ruling, over 46,000 prisoners are required to be released from the woefully overcrowded prison system in California. That is a small city worth of prisoners. The state is trying to comply with the order using measures from moving the prisoners to local and county jails, to more early releases for good behavior and a trimming down of sentences for less violent offenders. Invariably, there will be an increase in crime. Why? There are no jobs for law-abiding citizens, so there will be an even rarer chance for these criminals to get employment. Many of them will be forced back to crime just to survive.
California got to this point due to budgetary problems several years in a row. They haven’t increased capacity, but have been increasing the punishments handed down for crimes. A prison system designed to handle 80,000 prisoners will still be overcrowded after the release of 46,000 prisoners. There will still be about 110,000 prisoners in that system. The situation led the ruling Justices to cite conditions that were cruel and unusual as a punishment. The conditions weren’t real great for the corrections officers that had to deal with the situation either.
The lessons learned from California’s budget crisis will likely be lost on a budgetary challenged country. Californiaisn’t the first state to have extensive, multi-year budgetary problems or prison overcrowding. At the end of 2008, there were thirteen states operating at or over capacity in their prison systems. Another nineteen states were operating between 90% and 99%. The budget crunches have hit states in 2010 and 2011, which would push states to close facilities or, at the very least, not build new ones. With unemployment remaining at record numbers, hovering between 9% and 10%, there is likely going to be an increase in crime as people and families get more desperate. Federal assistance programs to the unemployed or those at or below poverty level are among those most at risk for being cut by Congress. The result is not likely to be a decrease in unemployment or crime.
As our nation approaches another year of record unemployment and growing unrest, the options for America’s neighborhoods appear grim. The states are not going to be expanding facilities to hold inmates. They’re going to be letting criminals leave the prison system earlier and more often. At a certain point in time, there will be violent and dangerous criminals released early who shouldn’t be. Civilians will die at the hands of these early released prone to violence inmates.
Will Violent Inmate Flood the Streets?
Will there be a lot of violent inmates released early?
The problem with overcrowding is that situation affects prisoners’ state of mind and well-being. Conceivably, it could push an inmate to be more violent in reaction to the overcrowding situations in the prison – an inmate who may not have been violent before. The conditions within an overcrowded prison system are damaging to the human psyche.
Changes in sentencing to increase incarceration times have not been accompanied by adequate increases in funding to handle the increased population within the prison system. The prison system population has exploded to what most experts call “unprecedented” levels. Californiawent from 20,000 inmates in the 70’s to 160,000 today. Texasfaced a similar increase. On the surface, you see an upswing in crime due to illegal drugs which is directly associated with the increase in convictions and sentences. Below the surface, there is not enough funding to support that increase in inmates. Overcrowding is unstoppable without increased funding to the prison system or a radical change to the laws and sentences currently on the books. Releasing prisoners early that shouldn’t be out on the street is leading to a dark and dangerous time for us all.