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Prison Numbers are on the Decline

20 Jan

Inmate populations at California state prisons have reached their all time low in 17 years. This statistic alone would lead one to believe crime is down but that’s far from the truth.

Inmate population on the prisons is down largely in part to the implementation of Assembly Bill 109. Before AB 109 the states inmate population capped out at 106,295 which was more than double what the system was designed to hold. Currently, the total inmate population is totaled at 132,618 which is approximately 155% of what it is designed to hold. In 1995, the prison population was 127,462.

So what was AB 109? It was the realignment that was designed to release non-violent offenders early and keep the state prison for inmates that have committed the serious crimes and are serving the longest sentences. So it seems that it is working, but what’s the effect?

County jails are increasingly becoming too overcrowded. While there hasn’t been any data to support an increase in crime since AB109 implementation, there has been an increase in alternative sentencing such as county jail instead of prison.

Los Angeles county jail has increased by the hundreds. Lancaster has seen an increase in violent crimes by 16%. Of the 39 murders committed in San Francisco by mid September of 2012, nearly a quarter were committed by an individual on post release supervised probation. Under AB109 state prisoners who were eligible for parole could be eligible for supervised formal probation.

LESS OVERCROWDING?!?!? For the state prisons sure AB109 did exactly what it was designed to do release the overcrowding in the state prisons. Inmates were crammed into bunks in the gyms which in many individuals opinions violate the Eighth Amendment.
The bunks would be double and triple bunks lined up row by row from one end of the gym to the other. California Institute for Men had approximately 200-250 people entering the prison on a weekly basis. This common area living posed so many dangers that hopefully AB109 relieved.

But now the same problem AB109 fixed is now in the county jails. All this accomplished was a shift in where the problem exists. Local jails are overcrowded and violent crime is on the rise. There has been a significant increase in assault on prison staff by inmates as a direct result of the overcrowding. Glen Helen Facility has also had two successful escapes in 2012.

So it looks like even county jails are looking to alternatives such as early release and work release programs and weekend jail. Currently in LA county twin towers a non violent offender might serve a few days on a 90day sentence. The other problem is that county jails are now housing inmates who have sentences that are far beyond the normal year county jail is designed for.

In Hesperian of the 88 burglaries committed since AB109 was implemented 30 can be linked to a single post release community supervision probation.

Where do we go from here?? AB109 was the best of the worst. The best news is local jails are looking to alternative and evidenced based rehabilitation programs instead of just building more jails. Finally California is beginning to realize we cannot just incarcerate our way out of the problem.

We have to rehabilitate the jail system before we can rehabilitate the individuals who need it. Simply housing individuals was never a smart idea and finally we are beginning to realize that.