Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Arnold looks at his state prison system, and doesn't like what he sees. 170,000 (!) prisoners, with a $10.6 billion budget. ($10.6 billion is more than the combined economies of Mongolia and Laos- two countries with a total population of around 9.2 million people.)

SACRAMENTO — With his state strapped and his legacy looming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed on Wednesday to greatly reduce the amount of money California spends on its prisons and to funnel that sum to the state’s higher education system instead.

It's sad that he had to wait until his state was bankrupt to do something about it, but at least he's doing it now, right? This should be a pretty easy call; there is absolutely no reason on earth for California to imprison 170,000 people. Most of them are non-violent offenders, including non-violent drug offenders who pose zero danger to society. Let's shift some of this money to education; nothing is more likely to keep people out of prison than education!

“The priorities have become out of whack over the years,” the governor told lawmakers. “I mean, think about it, 30 years ago, 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education, and 3 percent went to prisons. Today, almost 11 percent goes to prisons, and only 7.5 percent goes to higher education.”

Good stuff! What's the plan?

While the governor provided few details of his new plan, much of the prison cost savings he envisions would come though privatizing services or prisons themselves...

(Pounding my head against the wall.)

...The governor said no prisoners would be released early for his plan, shutting the door on changes to sentencing laws and the release of low-level offenders as other states have done.

So...California imprisons too many people, and spends too much money doing it, and the solution is to...wait for it...hire unaccountable, private, profit-making prison companies and their lobbyists to take over?

Don't laugh. As goes California, so goes the nation.

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