May 21, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Rejected Spending & The Prisoner Release Crisis:

For every action, goes the law of both physics and politics, there is a reaction, a consequence.

Now it seems more and more that a decision by Gov. Jerry Brown may have led directly to new demands for convict releases he calls a public danger, demands now backed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brown’s aides say he will continue pursuing an appeal of the order by three federal judges demanding the state’s prison population be cut by at least 9,600 inmates before year’s end. The idea is to bring prisons down to 137 percent of the system’s designed capacity. Given the glacial pace of court actions, it’s almost certain some prisoners will be let go – or else Brown will be held in contempt of court, with a constitutional crisis possibly ensuing.

Brown warns that the more than 24,000-prisoner reduction already made via his “realignment” program used up much of the pool of “harmless” convicts, so cutting more inmates may lead to many new crimes.

He lays any responsibility for that at the feet of the judges, saying the state moved mountains to relieve the overcrowding top courts find unconstitutional. Yet, prisoners now bunk in jammed gymnasiums and other open spaces, lack adequate room for exercise and get inferior medical care, the judges found repeatedly.

But Brown says there’s been considerable improvement, citing the recent opening of an almost $1 billion Central Valley medical facility as one sign of progress.

Republicans respond that the state has not done nearly all it could have to solve the prison overcrowding crisis, and that Brown is largely responsible.

“This crisis was entirely foreseeable and the state plan to address it was disregarded by the governor and legislative Democrats,” state Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar told Bloomberg News.

That’s also the stance of Abel Maldonado, who makes the alleged danger from upcoming prisoner releases the centerpiece of his nascent campaign for the Republican nomination to oppose Brown next year.

The key Brown decision they point to came shortly after his most recent election in 2010, when he opted not to spend the vast majority of more than $7 billion in lease-revenue bonds for prison construction previously okayed by legislators and ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even that amount was less than the $11 billion in prison-building bonds Schwarzenegger proposed in 2006.

Brown, seeking ways to balance an out-of-control budget, took a skinflint approach, opting for the realignment program that sees many so-called “low-level” felons of a type previously sent to state prisons now staying in county jails, while some county prisoners are turned loose. Barely one-fifth of the authorized lease-revenue bond money has so far been spent.

So when Brown says he’s done everything conceivable to prevent the new prisoner release, that’s not quite so: Money was available for a 53,000-bed building program if he had wanted to do it. Realignment was cheaper.

Now, even after the nation’s highest court upheld the previous prisoner-release order, Brown Administration officials assert they don’t want to release many more inmates. They’ve had an emergency plan in place for months to release some elderly and sick convicts before their terms expire, lease private prison space, mostly in other states (there is some doubt about their authority to do this), and possibly build some prison additions. Current estimates indicate this would still mean about 1,000 early releases.

It’s an open question whether any of this would be in play if Brown had been able to show judges new prisons were coming.

What’s evident is that top judges are not buying Brown’s argument, first stated to reporters in January: “After decades of work, the job is now complete. Our prisons are not overcrowded.”

They accuse the governor of dragging his heels, saying they have repeatedly restrained themselves from citing him for contempt of court.

Something’s going to give, most likely by year’s end, and doomsayers predict a surge in crime.

Whatever happens, one thing is clear: Things could look very different today had Brown suppressed his well-known cheapskate tendencies and chosen to spend the money earmarked for this problem before it became a crisis.

in Opinion
Related Posts

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gelson’s, Boxed-In

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

This week we are re-visiting an article from 2018 regarding the Miramar project, by simply replacing the word “Miramar” with...

Column: Are You Talking Yourself Out of Saving for Retirement? Here’s How to Break the Habit

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Saving for retirement can be an abstract concept. It’s something we all know we should do, but the farther away...

SMa.r.t. Column: Failure to Plan…

April 30, 2022

April 30, 2022

Over the last approximately two years your City has been busy trying to respond to new California laws that are...

Letter to Editor: Your “Standing Firm With Santa Monica” Initiative

April 25, 2022

April 25, 2022

The following is an open letter to Councilmember Sue Himmelrich from Santa Monica resident Arthur Jeon regarding a proposed transfer...

SMa.r.t. Column: Planning The Real Future

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

In the 1970s, renowned USC architecture professor Ralph Knowles developed a method for planning and designing cities that would dramatically...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan: The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

Part II: Who pays the proposed transfer tax and where does the money go? Last week, we introduced the proposed...

Column: NIMBYs Getting a Bad Rap

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

By Tom Elias Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan – The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

Part 1 of 2 In this two-part article, we will discuss both the proposed transfer tax ballot initiative and the...

Column: Tackling Childcare Costs

April 7, 2022

April 7, 2022

Finding affordable, quality childcare is essential for many working parents. The current shortage of care options is helping drive up...