Articles Tagged with criminal justice reform

According to The Sentencing Project, private prisons nationwide held 128,063 people in 2016. This number represents 8.5% of the federal prison population. Since the beginning of this decade, the private prison population increased 47%. On September 11, 2019, a new law made California the first state to end its use of for-profit, private prisons and detention facilities. This ban on private prisons will change the issue of mass incarceration and influence the criminal justice system and the criminal process overall.

Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) Bans Private Prisons

Assembly Bill 32 was passed on September 11, 2019, by the California State Legislature and signed by Governor Newsom on October 11, 2019. It has been added to the California Penal Code, and bans the use of private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities.

The law prohibits the Department of Corrections from entering into contracts, on or after January 1, 2020, with private facilities in state or out of state. The same law applies for the renewal of existing contracts. 

By January 2028, all contracts will be phased out and the State of California can no longer hold inmates in any private prison or detention facility.

The Impact of the AB 32

An article in CBS News reveals that AB 32 impacts over 1,400 inmates and 4,000 detainees that are currently housed in private prisons and detention facilities.

The Law Does Not Apply to Certain Facilities

It is important to note that the new law comes with exceptions mentioned in Section 9502. The law does not apply to any of the following facilities:

  • Rehab, counseling, mental health, educational facilities
  • Residential care facilities
  • Evaluation or treatment facilities
  • Vocational or medical facilities
  • School facilities used for disciplinary detention
  • Facilities used for quarantine or isolation for public health reasons
  • Temporary detention facilities

Additionally, the law does not apply to private facilities operating with a valid contract with a governmental entity that was in effect prior to January 1, 2020.

For a list of additional exceptions and to read the bill in its entirety, you are invited to review Assembly Bill 32 on the California Legislature website.

California and its Criminal Justice Reform Measures

NBC San Diego reports that the State of California’s inmate population has been declining due to measures to ease criminal sentences. According to the report, the inmate private prison population consists of less than 1% of the 125,000 inmate population. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

In the latest criminal justice reform to pass through the state of California, California voters have also approved Prop. 57, the Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Court Trial Requirements Initiative. The measure passed with 65% of the vote. Prop. 57 is a yet another effort by Governor Jerry Brown to lower the state’s overcrowded prison population.

What Does Prop 57 Do?

Prop. 57 would make thousands of prison inmates eligible for earlier parole if their conviction was not for a “violent crime” and allow state officials and corrections officers to give early release credit for rehabilitation. The measure also strips prosecutors of the power to decide when juveniles should be tried as adults and leaves those decisions to judges. It is estimated that 130,000 prisoners could be released.