NPR had a tremendously important program today about a major contributor to why California's budget problems are so dire.
It's not just Proposition 13. And it's not just the dysfunctional state government. One of the biggest problems in California is the overcrowded prisons that eat more than $10 billion each and every year on a totally broken and overwhelmed system.
The biggest culprit? The tough-on-crime laws that imprison more and more people for longer times without any programs that might break the cycle. Other contributors? The powerful Prison Guard union which lobbies for higher pay for increasingly dangerous duty based on the growing prison population who are facing increasing draconian sentences with no reason to believe anything will ever get better.
And then finally, there's this: every year California releases 120,000 prisoners and every year, they re-imprison 75,000 for parole violations (an astonishingly high 62.5% recidivism rate) which makes the overcrowding worse.
Here was what I thought was the money quote regarding the insanity of our strict parole violation rules:
Texas used to have similar laws but found them too costly. So it slowly stopped returning parolees to prison for technical violations, and now Texas doesn't have the overcrowding and fiscal problems facing California, Sullivan says.
Ever since the Nixon days, Californians have voted for increasingly tougher laws, longer sentences and stricter rules on paroles. This is the result of the relentless conservative/authoritarian propaganda that makes punishment more important than rehabilitation despite the evidence that these policies are not just futile, but actually counterproductive in creating a safer and saner community.
Today, we are captive to the monster that the vindictive and harsh policies which do nothing to rehabilitate prisoners have wrought, guaranteeing that we will continue to spend more money to keep someone in prison than we do to put them in good schools. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.