Overcrowded California Prisons Cause for Debate

Jails and prisons throughout the nation are overcrowded and in California it's no different – it may even be worse. Taking note of the incredible boom in prison populations, the U.S. government has stepped up their efforts to reduce incarceration rates. Just weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder pushed for changes to the criminal justice system that would focus on the rehabilitation of low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Even more serious than this, however, was the federal court order for California to reduce its prison population by 9,600 by the end of the year. Not only is this designed to free up much needed resources, it is also the favored way to improve conditions for inmates, including medical and mental healthcare.

On Tuesday of this week, Governor Jerry Brown came forward with his plan for addressing the federal court order. It didn't exactly aim to reduce prison populations or cut spending. In fact, Governor Brown's plan consisted of a proposal to move inmates to privatized prisons and county jails. The estimated price tag would amount to $730 million over two years and would come out of California's $1.1 billion dollar reserve fund.

While many in law enforcement and crime victims groups support Brown's plan, it seems that many more – including Democrats in the state Senate – are opposed. For one, Brown's plan is said to be only a temporary solution, and not a very good one. Advocates for reform are saying that these funds should be put toward more preventative measures that aim to solve the underlying problem of crime and recidivism – the term used to describe a convicted offender's return to a life of incarceration. These preventative measures include early education, youth programs, and other educational and social infrastructure efforts.

Still, there are a number of arguments and even more potential solutions. Yesterday, Senate Democrats revealed a plan to push for an extension to the year-end time limit, specifically a three-year deadline to reduce prison populations. They hope that drug rehabilitation and mental health programs will be running at full steam by then, which can greatly reduce the amount of inmates across the state.

As of now, it is unclear how federal Judges will react to opposition and the proposed plans. If anything is clear, however, it is that California's criminal justice system is broken. Many place the blame – or at least a majority of it – on the harsh drug sentencing policies that arose with America's War on Drugs. Whatever the case may be, individuals who face criminal allegations now should be aware that they face strict penalties and tough consequences when convicted of a criminal offense. If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal allegations, please do not hesitate to learn more about your case and defense by speaking with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP. Call (800) 462-7160 to discuss your case.