Monday, August 31, 2009

The "Economist" Stubs Toe

"All night they battled. Hispanic inmates on one side, blacks on the other, they smashed glass to use the shards as knives and ripped off pipes for bludgeons, burning down part of the prison and injuring hundreds. The riot on August 8th-9th was not the first and won't be the last in California's dreadful prison system. ... [Chino] is also one of the prisons that are currently trying to implement a 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court that inmates must not be segregated by race. ... In the last three decades, California's penal system 'has gone from one of the best to one of the worst in the world,' says Joan Petersillia, an expert on prisons at Stanford Law School. ... But in 1976 California decided to switch from 'indetermnate' to 'determinate' sentencing. The first system, emphasizing rehabilitation, gives a lot of discretion to parole boards, who can reward good behavior and also help with overcrowding by reducing inmates' prison time. Determinate sentencing, on the other hand, reflects a philosophy of deterrence and means that prison time is relatively fixed, whether an inmate behaves well or badly", The Economist, 13 August 2009, link:

At least the Economist noted Hispanic and black gangs in Chino went at it. In 1976 California had about 21.5 million residents, now about 38.5 million. California became a "minority-majority" state in those 33 years. The change to determinate sentencing was motivated by some of the same factors behind 1986's federal sentening guidelines, i.e., to increase sentencing uniformity. We in Texas have indeterminate sentencing, and I think it a disaster. I consider our Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) a nest of incompetence and corruption. Except for one convicted of a three-strikes crime or murder, a California inmate is generally released after serving 2/3rds of his sentence. In Texas, with a few exceptions, the BPP can release an inmate after he serves 11.9% of his sentence. Guess what that leads to. Despite population increases, a change in ethnic composition and three-strikes, California did not build more prisons. That's why it now houses 168,000 prisoners in facilities built for 85,000. That this disaster was coming was obvious years ago.


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