State’s Prison System Is Hard on the Economy
Re “State Prisons’ Revolving Door: Ask Hard Questions,” editorial, Jan. 7: I hope that all our legislators will take a long, hard look at the waste created under the guise of public safety by the Department of Corrections and the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. Besides the five-year contract that included a 37% pay raise by 2006, approved by our lawmakers at a time we could ill afford it, how about the $500 million over its budget, probably in overtime, consumed by this state agency last year? Or the Hawaii trips for our lawmakers hosted by the prison guards union? Or the millions in campaign contributions?
And it was the prison guards again who paid for television ads to sell the three-strikes law -- a law that gives life sentences to nonviolent offenders for such crimes as stealing a slice of pizza or a minor drug charge. Does the prisons guards union have an agenda to suck every dollar it can from our state budget? The answer seems obvious to me.
The high rate of re-incarceration of parolees hurts employers. Often, when we have trained, at some expense, an employee who is a parolee, the parolee will later be arrested for arbitrary reasons, never ultimately charged with any crime by prosecutors and then returned to prison for a supposed parole violation. This disrupts operations and forces us to hire a new employee.
A parolee can be arrested and charged with a crime based on flimsy or false evidence. After the district attorney or the police rejects the case as lacking in probable cause, the Board of Prison Terms can decide that the parolee was guilty according to an evidentiary standard of less than probable cause, such as “preponderance of the evidence.”
We have never had a parolee go back to prison for a crime; the parole revocation is always because of associating off the job with other parolees or accusations that the district attorney or police rejected. After three years of this, we cannot afford the economic disruption. I no longer put parolees in positions that require training for more than a day. If our governor wants to deliver on his promise to make more jobs in California, he might want to start with this issue.
W. Snow Hume