As goes California . . .

By , September 19, 2009 3:39 pm
"California Can't Afford Another Prison"
Image by vkdir via Flickr

It hardly needs to be said that California’s leaders are acting irresponsibly, in violation of law, and with deliberate indifference to the health or safety of more than 166,000 people. But they’re clear on the other side of the country, some 2,000 miles from the Triangle Region of North Carolina. So what do we care about California’s misguided public policy and spineless leadership?

Here’s why we care. California is a harbinger of what lies ahead for the entire nation if we continue existing criminal justice policy. California’s crisis is the result of muddle-headed thinking about the purposes of a criminal justice system, political demagoguery for personal advancement, and inadequate funding to support the draconian laws enacted by the state’s legislature and its citizens. Would that California were unique in these respects.

When we incarcerate people for petty offenses and trifling conduct which we disapprove, we not only deprive them of liberty and virtually ensure that they will never be permitted to rejoin our society as respected, responsible citizens. We rob ourselves of the talents and contributions that might otherwise help to meet the challenges of our time, and those that lie ahead. We deplete public coffers of much-needed revenue in a wasteful, destructive spiral of reckless ruination. We fail to offer help to people who may suffer from mental illness, substance addiction, or who simply lack the skills to lead productive, law-abiding lives. We cheat victims out of any meaningful chance to recover restitution. We decimate neighborhoods, destroy families, and leave children without parents. And the outcomes we achieve with this “lock ‘em up” policy are shameful, with more than 60% of offenders going back to prison within three years.

How long would it be before you replaced a car that failed to start 60% of the time? If your employer routinely paid only 40% of your wages, how hard would it be to figure out you need a new job? Can it be anything other than irrational fear and hatred that cloud our judgement when we see a criminal justice system that fails to meet even the most rudimentary objectives of an ordered society?

via As goes California . . ..

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