By The Bakersfield Californian
I'm amazed California taxpayers want to accept cutbacks in the courts ($1 billion in judicial budget cuts the past five fiscal years and a $3.7 million deficit this year), higher college tuitions, furloughed workers and other public service cuts rather than address the real underlying problem: our sentencing laws, especially for drug offenses.
Fifty percent of all federal inmates are incarcerated for drugs. One in every 30 people is under some form of corrections supervision nationwide. Sixty-seven percent of Kern County's general fund goes to criminal justice. California spends $184 million a year (and rising) trying to execute a handful of inmates on death row.
California spends more on incarceration than its universities and is responsible for 47 percent of all parole violations nationwide. Some states have one-year parole (babysitting business) no matter what the crime. Violating a parolee for missing his curfew by five minutes or an appointment is harassment and only aggravates prison realignment. The money could be better spent through re-entry programs.
When do we admit we are a police state? Until government and society address the underlying problem of prison overcrowding -- as Portugal's reformed drug laws did -- and accept the fact long sentences don't deter crime, we'll only get more reduced public services.
Government likes to shift things around (prison realignment) and doesn't try to solve the underlying problem. District Attorney Lisa Green's recent recommendation: "Someone needs to take a hard look" at whether another prison or two can be built. The last one, in Delano, cost $850 million.