Prison construction and overcrowding is down due to the State of California implementing smart and effective prison reform policies, reports Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ).
“The long overdue task of replacing ineffective over-incarceration with smart justice in the nation’s most populous state is finally underway,” CSJ reports.
Data collected from the study show a 10 percent drop in California county jail populations, a 64 percent reduction in the number of people on state parole, and a 22 percent decrease in felony filings.
Currently, 1.5 million Californians are eligible to have their nonviolent felony convictions expunged from their old convictions, removing barriers to new opportunities. Additionally, rehabilitation programs are being instituted in the justice system to help reduce recidivism, and trauma centers are being established to help those impacted by crime.
Finally, money saved from prison spending is being allocated to community treatment and crime prevention programs, according to the 2017 report.
Despite these historic reductions and improvements, the report found prison populations are still too high, resulting in prison spending that costs California taxpayers $11 billion a year.
“There are over 4,800 legal restrictions facing people with convictions after sentence completion…73% of these legal barriers are permanent.” “SAFE AND SOUND: …” by Californians For Safety and Justice Nov. 2017
The report suggests further reforms that could potentially reduce California prison terms by 20 percent and the prison population by 30,000, resulting in the closure of prisons and savings of more than a billion dollars.
“Nearly 7 in 10 support clearing the records of people who complete their entire sentence if they remain crime free for seven years,” according to “SAFE AND SOUND:”by Californians For Safety and Justice Nov. 2017
“Reducing state imprisonment by 30,000 people would allow California to close five prisons and save—conservatively—about $1.5 billion in state prison spending,” the report says.
According to the report, 55 percent of Californians who responded to a 2017 CSJ survey supported closing state prisons and using the savings to fund mental health and substance abuse treatment at the local level.
“SNY [Sensitive Needs Yard] …comprises roughly half the California prison system,” according to Lody Lewn in the Prison University Project Spring 2018 Newsletter Volume 13, No.1
The report recommends spending that $1.5 billion on improving California communities in the following three ways:
First, the report suggests expanding mental health services to address serious mental illness, increase drug abuse treatment for those suffering from addiction, and add to diversion and housing programs to address homeless people who commit crime.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
Second, the report advocates creating a process for victims of crime to recover from the trauma inflicted on them, get back on their feet, avoid re-victimization, and regain some stability.
Finally, the report advocates ensuring that released inmates have a strong support base when released from custody. This, the reports says, can be accomplished by providing access to employment, housing, social programs, and help with reconnecting with family.
According to the report, implementing these reforms will make California a better place to live for both the formerly incarcerated and the general population of the state.