Research Paper:Prison Reform, State of California There are many social issues that are currently plaguingsociety, so many that each and everyone of us are presently affected by two ormore. For some people, life’s big decisions are heavily influenced or avoideddue to the way their affected. It wasn’t always this way, it wasn’t too longago when certain personality traits were honored, such as integrity, caring forone’s neighbor, sacrificing for the greater good, commitment and loyalty, earningthrough an honest day’s work, civil obedience, public service…and for thepurposes of this research paper, I want to underscore social justice andequality.
Believe it or not there was a time when people felt secure in puttingtheir trust into the justice system. People believed that our members of thejustice system were sincerely fair and impartial, and each department withinthat system was designed to up hold laws and, protect and defend all citizens. Oneof the most recognized legal symbols of American justice is Lady Justice…ablindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, symbolizing the fairand equal administration of the law, without corruption, greed, prejudice, orfavor. I bring attention to this creedas a reminder of the duties of our legal system.
As it is today, very few people hold it inhigh regard. Rightfully so. Thisbrings me to the subject I will be focusing on for my research paper…PrisonReform within the State of California.
I will be limiting my scope primarily tomisdemeanors and infractions. I will be addressing the areas of the judicialand prison system that contribute to the current need to reform. Some of those areas include, sentencingguidelines, prison overcrowding, racial disparities, and the privatization ofprisons. Thecurrent sentencing guidelines are vulnerable to prejudice, corruption, greed,and profit. Just as importantly, sentencing for any crime can be influenced andeffected based on one’s ability to afford legal representation, produce costlydocuments, pay fees and/or fines in a timely manner, if at all.
In too manycases all the above elements have resulted in either unnecessary incarcerationor excessive sentencing. These results are more concentrated in areas whichhave a heavier population of minorities and a lower median income. Therefore, unarguablythere is an unfair and unequal administration of the law. Iwould resolve that Sentencing Reform legislation be enacted to change thecurrent sentencing guidelines. The new guidelines will be changed to includethe following: (1) all sentencing “ranges” will be eliminated and a singlemandatory sentence will be established. (i.
e. instead of a possible 3-6 monthpunishment, the sentence will be a mandatory of 3 months). (2) Incarcerationfor all non-violent misdemeanors and infractions will no longer be a possiblesentence. Non-violent misdemeanors and infractions will only be punishablethrough community service, fines, the revoking or suspension of driver’slicense, or probation. (3) Minority right to be heard by 2 judges, one will beof the same race, ethnicity, or descent. (4) The privatization of prisons areabolished.
All active contracts with private companies or corporations will beterminated effective immediately.Racialdisparities are prevalent and well documented in the prisons and jailsthroughout the State of California. Minorities are more frequently sentenced toincarceration, and suffer heavier sentences than their counterparts. Largelycontributing to the issue of unnecessary incarceration, excessive sentencing,and a much higher recidivism rate. Asreported in 2015 from the State of California’s Department of Corrections,African American men are dramatically more likely to be imprisoned than areother groups.
Less than two thirds of California’s adult male population arenonwhite or Latino (60%), but these groups make up three out of every four menin prison: Latinos are 42%, African Americans are 29%, and other races are 6%.Among adult men in 2013, African America were incarcerated at a rate of 4,367per 100,000, compared to 922 for Latinos, 488 for non-Latino whites and 34 forAsians. Unquestionably,minorities make up most of the population incarcerated. There can be severalreasons that contribute to this statistic including prejudice, economicdifficulties, unstable upbringing, profit greed from privatization. Specifically, the recidivism rate has beenstudied by the Public Policy Institute of California, and a report was releasedon December 11, 2017 which acknowledges the considerable variation in therecidivism across 12 counties that were studied is linked to differences indemographic composition, economic resources, and geography.
Theremedy for racial disparity begins with enacting new laws and/or legislationregarding sentencing. The new laws for sentencing requirements will be changedto include an additional right for minorities. This additional right willstate; if you fall into any minority group, you have the right for your case tobe heard by two judges. One judge will be of the same race, descent, orethnicity. This is accomplished in asimple way, as there are always various language speaking interpreters on staff,there will also be a permanent staff of the various judges. These judges can be on staff full time,and/or some judges can be “on call”, or scheduled in advance for anyone ofthese special rights hearings.
The second part of the solution will be remediedby the Judges New Sentencing Guidelines as described in the SentencingGuidelines portion above. Prisonovercrowding is an enormous burden on society and both the judicial and prisonsystems. The cost to house each prisoner is very expensive.
This results in theeconomy becoming strained and local and state taxes being increased. Over timeas prisons and jails have increasingly become more and more overcrowded eachtax payer is burdened with a noticeable tax increase. Prison overcrowding bogsdown and overwhelms the judicial system such as, the courts, the DistrictAttorney’s Office, and the court appointed defense attorneys.
As a result,there are extensive delays in obtaining court appointments and schedulinghearings, right to a speedy trial is compromised, more importantly, the rightto effective representation is largely compromised due to an extensive caseload for appointed defense attorneys. Overcrowdingalso has a significant burden on the prison system itself. As the population inprisons and jails increase it dictates that more resources are required to runand maintain the facility, and ensure the continuance of safety for allprisoners and personnel. The increase of funds necessary to fill theseresources and meet these additional requirements is extensive.
Therefore, the burden of this expenseprimarily falls on the tax payer, furthering the distrust and low opinion thatpeople have pertaining to fiscal responsibility and fiscal conservatism. Formore than 6 years California has transferred thousands of prisoners to bothArizona and Mississippi to relieve overcrowding in state prisons. The statebegan shifting some inmates to private prisons in response to federal courtorders to reduce this serious overcrowding, which was found to be responsiblefor substandard health care and the deaths of numerous inmates. Although thishas helped in relieving overcrowding, it has created some unforeseen problems.One problem is sending inmates to prisons far from their families which createsa low morale, and higher tendency for inmates who have been transferred.Additionally, this makes it more complicated and expensive for Californiainspectors. Thesolution to prison overcrowding is three-fold: It requires to pass legislationthat would reduce the number of crimes that are punishable by incarceration. Reformsentencing guidelines eliminate incarceration as a punishment for allmisdemeanors and infractions, and all non-violent and/or victimless felonies.
Theprivate prison system raises a lot of questions. One that many people wonderabout is how can a private company legally incarcerate people? Isn’t that thegovernment’s job to house and hold prisoners? The answer is yes, but thegovernment does contract out quite a bit of their work. Apublic prison is one that is completely owned by the government. This meansthat they have to provide the prison building, staff the guards andadministration, and oversee all the prisoners and everything that happens inthe prison. Even with a public prison, many of the services are outsourced toprivate contractors such as the food service, cleaning services andmaintenance.
With a private prison, many of the burdens are taken off thegovernment and put onto a private company. Instead of all the business thatgoes along with running a prison, the government simply must supply theprisoners, and oversee the prison. Now that begs the question of how afor-profit prison makes money. Apublic prison is naturally non-profit. The end goal is to house prisoners in anattempt to rehab them or remove them from the streets. A private prison, on theother hand, is run by a corporation.
That corporation’s end goal is to profitfrom anything they deal in. In order to make money as a private prison, theyreceive a stipend from the government. This money from the government can bepaid in a multitude of different ways.
It can be based on the size of theprison, based on a monthly or yearly set amount, or in most cases it is paidbased on the number of prisoners that the prison houses. Thereis no way to put an exact number on the cost per prisoner for the State of Californiabecause the actual cost varies from county to county. Here’s the math put simply though, let’ssuppose that it costs $100 per day to house a prisoner (assuming full capacity,including all administration costs), and the prison building can hold 1,000inmates. A private prison can offer their services to the government and charge$150 per day per prisoner. Generally, the government will agree to these termsif the $150 is less than if the prison was publicly run. That spread is wherethe private prison makes their money. As in any business, saving money whereverpossible increases the bottom line, so therefore the quality of goods andservices will be compromised, and corners will be cut.
This can also include personnel resources. Ifa corporation can pay less for less experienced personnel, including thoseinvolved with security and the safety of staff and inmates, they will. This isa risky endeavor that provides no benefit to the public. It leaves theimpression that the state is putting a price tag on the safety of thosecitizens that they are responsible for. As evidence, in August 2016, the OrangeCounty Register put out an article titled “As U.S. cuts ties with privateprisons, California to keep using them”, which reports that the Justice Departmentsays its phasing out its relationships with private prisons after a recentaudit found the private facilities have more safety and security problems thanones run by the government.
As of that date, more than 9,000 California stateinmates are housed in private prisons, with the bulk of those imprisoned inArizona and Mississippi. In addition to the two out-of-state prisons,California contracts with eight in-state prisons of the varying sizes. That isnot the American way, that is not what the progressive State of Californiaproclaims that they stand for.
The privatizing of prisons is equivalentto privatizing criminal justice. When a company or corporation profits each time,someone is incarcerated is problematic, in short because its paradoxical. Whatcomplicates the matter even more, is that the best way for the government tosave money is to ensure that prisons and/or jails are always running at fullcompacity…the Costco business model, it’s cheaper to provide in bulk. Thisendeavor has created the most optimum conditions for unnecessary incarceration,excessive sentencing, corruption and influence over judges, bribery and illegalprofit gain. These conditions have only served to further distrust throughoutthe entire legal and judicial system. Even worse, this distrust will lead to anincrease of unreported crimes, defendants opting out of a trial, wrongfulconvictions, and additional overcrowding. Theprivatization of prisons and jails must be eliminated.
Some areas in California have already pastlegislation making it illegal to contract with any private company orcorporation for any service or product. My solution is to pass a state-wide bill making it illegal throughoutthe entire state of California. Additionally, there will be penalties andsentencing for any violation. Inconclusion, the current prison system is definitely in need of reform! The onlyway to accomplish meaningful reform is to begin by reducing the amount ofnon-violent crimes that are punishable through incardination. It is thenimportant to eliminate sentencing “ranges”, therefore each crime is sentencedthe same regardless of who committed the crime.
Along with adding additionalrights for minorities accused of crimes. The overcrowding in our prison systemscan be managed by the reduction of crimes that carry a possible sentence ofimprisonment. The privatization of prisons must be abolished. I have proventhat privatization has only worsened the quality of life of prisoners and thereputation of California’s Judicial system.
Works CitedAsU.S. Cuts Ties with Private Prisons, California to Keep Using Them. Orange CountyRegister. 2016. Web.
12 Dec 2017. TheBusiness Model of Private Prisons. Investopedia. 2015. Web. 2 Dec 2017. CaliforniaJudges Benchguide: Sentencing Guidelines for Common Misdemeanors andInfractions.Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts.
2013. Web.2 Dec 2017. California’sSentencing Laws.California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
2017. Web. 1 Dec 2017. Californiato Continue Contracting Private Prisons. The Daily Californian. 2013.
Web. 10 Dec2017. CriminalLaw Reform Project.
America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 2017. Web. 2 Dec 2017. HumanRights.American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 2017.
Web. 2 Dec 2017. MassIncarceration.American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 2017. Web. 2 Dec 2017.
StatePrison Population.California Sentencing Institute. 2015. Web. 1 Dec 2017.