A Los Angeles Times editorial by Sharon Dolovich, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, responds to Governor Schwarzenegger’s call to ship California inmates to out of state private facilities. Recognizing that the state can decide that there are either not enough prisons, or too many prisoners, she proposes a more sensible solution:
What we need is not more prison beds but meaningful sentencing reform. Our prisons are so crowded for one reason: We have too many people behind bars — more than 170,000 inmates. Many of these inmates are violent, but many more are not. The only way to resolve this penal crisis is to take a hard look at who is in prison and why, and ask ourselves whether everyone behind bars really needs to be there.
We could start by finding a more appropriate way to deal with those prisoners who are more mentally ill than criminal, who were re-incarcerated for technical parole violations that pose no public safety threat, whose offense is mere drug possession, or who are serving 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for non-serious, nonviolent third strikes. With even moderate success at these efforts, we wouldn’t need to ship any inmates out of state. We’d have cells enough right here at home.
Seriously folks, are we jailing too many people when we have elected officials proposing that we deal with our drug offenders the same way we deal with landfills and garbage? Maybe we can all start wasting our collective energy on state vs. state prison NIMBY lawsuits…
(Hat Tip: Media Awareness Project)