Two years ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB109, legislation which was titled “Public Safety Realignment” into law. The legislation was prompted by federal judges ordering a dramatic reduction in the number of state prison inmates.
As the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation explained, “The law accomplished this by increasing the ‘good time’ credits for inmates participating in programs in prison, which reduced their required sentences in some cases by 60% and by making virtually all property and drug felonies ineligible for state prison. The law also transferred most criminals coming out of prison from more restrictive three-year statewide supervision on parole to less restrictive county supervision called Post-Release Community Supervision, (PRCS), a fancy name for probation.”
The recently released FBI report for 2012 showed increases in crime in California after six straight years of decreases and after the state had achieved a thirty year low in crime.
There are many reports around the state of some of those who were released early being involved in violent crimes, including murder, and committing new felonies, including crimes involving gun possession.
California’s prison system was once considered a model for the nation. But its decline can be linked to the growing political influence of the powerful prison guards’ union, the CCPOA. After contributing millions of dollars to his political campaign, the Governor approved a multi-billion dollar benefit package to prison guards shortly after his inauguration. Thousands of their members will receive annual retirement benefits in excess of six-figures. Our prison guards are paid much better than our teachers.
This back-room deal provided to the prison guards by the state’s politicians has driven up prison costs while draining resources to maintain the quality of the state’s prisons.
Public safety is the first responsibility of state and local government. AB109 needs to be reformed to better protect the public and ensure dangerous criminals are not flooding onto our streets. We need genuine prison reform that includes real rehabilitation instead of jail for non-violent drug users, strict supervision on parole for those who are released, and reasonable compensation for prison guards. I hope you agree.