California’s current financial crisis has brought major cuts to rehabilitative efforts within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
In October, hundreds of vocational and academic instructors throughout California’s penal institutions were issued pink slips, informing them that their services would no longer be needed within the CDCR.
These reductions will impact academic, vocational, and substance abuse programs for inmates and parolees. Financial cuts toward rehabilitative efforts are estimated to be so deep that academic and vocational programs within institutions may never recover, leaving inmates to return to their communities with no job skills and state employees looking for new jobs.
The cuts come despite the assertion by California State Auditor, Elaine M. Howle, that the CDCR has a responsibility for implementing rehabilitative strategies for inmates to successfully reintegrate into communities.
Institutions that currently use vocational printing, plumbing, welding, sheet metal, electrical, and machine shops will have to outsource many of these services, causing California to spend more money on outside contractors.
These moves are in stark contrast to CDCR’s June 2009 Rehabilitative News report that said, “AB900 moves California away from an outdated model of prisoner incarceration to institutions that create opportunities for change – to reduce the rate at which inmates released from prison commit more crimes. The Act is a major effort to reform California’s prison system by reducing prison overcrowding and increasing rehabilitative programming. The reforms use evidence-based rehabilitation – academic, vocational, substance abuse and other programs – to help offenders succeed when they rejoin their communities so they do not return to a life of crime.”
Addressing these events, CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said, “The new budget reality has forced us to make tough choices as we weigh population reductions, staff layoffs and a significant cut to our budget. We must increase our efficiency and target our limited resources for programs most likely to reduce recidivism and keep our communities and our prisons safe.”
According to San Quentin’s Robert E. Burton Adult School October Newsletter, “In January 2010 the education program is to be cut back drastically to the pre-expansion numbers of 2004. Seventy-five percent of the faculty are to be dismissed.”
The Newsletter reports, “Every dollar spent on education saves $2 for taxpayers through reduced recidivism (Correctional Educational Journal). And, inmates who attend high school and college classes while in prison are substantially less likely to re-enter prison once released (Federal Bureau of Prisons).”
Vocational Janitorial instructor Anthony Stevenson, who has worked for CDCR for the past 15 years said, “I was hired to serve these men, to give them job and life skills so they could reintegrate back into society, unfortunately due to budget issues they are taking another resource away from these inmates.”