Gov. Jerry Brown Hopes to Stop Former Inmates from Returning to Prison

Gov. Jerry Brown continues his push to overhaul California’s criminal justice system by announcing an additional $50 million in funding to rehabilitate former inmates. The $50 million in funding would expand job training for inmates while they are incarcerated and then help the inmates locate employment upon their release from state prisons. Currently, the state of California only spends $106 million in rehabilitation and reentry programs.

For advocates of criminal justice reform, the roughly $150 million on rehabilitation services is not nearly enough to tackle what has become a serious problem in the state. Of the 36,000 California prisoners released in the last year with data available, a full 46% were convicted of another crime within just three years. According to Assemblyman Tom Lackey, “That’s a very miserable number. It indicates that the efforts as currently constituted, are not being as successful as they need to be.”

Lackey has introduced a new bill in the state Legislature which would require the state’s inspector general to evaluate the effectiveness of all of the state’s rehabilitation programs and report back to the Legislature every 10 years. According to Lackey, this will not only improve the lives of California inmates by providing effective rehabilitation opportunities, but it will also ensure California is spending its money wisely.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer agrees with Lackey about the need for accountability concerning the state’s rehabilitation efforts. Both legislators said they would like to see an investment in education as part of the broader shift to reduce recidivism. Gov. Brown’s proposal does not propose any new funding for education.

Between the Democratic Governor and multiple Republican legislators, it appears a bipartisan consensus is emerging over the need to help former inmates integrate better into society. The only problem is how exactly to fix the problem and how much money should be spent. In a state with a projected budget surplus of $6 billion over the next year, proponents of rehabilitation reform state the Governor’s new funding is not a “dramatic” change to money spent on rehabilitation programs and fail to include programs for inmates once they are outside of prison.

Further, considering Gov. Brown proposed budget for the next year includes $12 billion for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a full 9% of the state’s budget – the $50 million increase appears to be more of a wink to a large problem than a serious attempt to solve it, according to critics of Gov. Brown’s allegedly mixed record on criminal justice reform. Of the $50 million being proposed for rehabilitation efforts, more than half will be spent on “training inmates to become firefighters.”

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