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Change to California’s Prison Realignment Law Focuses on Drug Dealers

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Credit: malcom-che.com

California Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento) has introduced a bill that would send drug dealers to state prisons instead of county jails. The bill, introduced in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s prison realignment law, has support from Democrats throughout the state.

According to an Associated Press article, Cooley’s bill delves into specific measurements of illicit substances sold, aiming for drug dealers “higher up” on the chain. This realignment effort will place those charged with the sale or transport of “more than 2.2 pounds of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine in state institutions.

The prison realignment law of 2011, or AB 109, was in direct response to the Supreme Court’s order for the state to reduce its prison population by 137 percent capacity by May 24, 2013.

This realignment plan, the most comprehensive effort in the state since California’s “three strikes” law, still faces the ominous reality of overcrowded prisons. It has, however, successfully decreased prison populations in the state’s thirty-three adult prisons by 25,000 inmates. The Supreme Court’s order still stipulates that the state decrease correctional populations by an additional 10,000 inmates by the end of 2013.

Cooley is not the only legislator proposing changes to Brown’s realignment law and drug dealers are not the only targets. Another bill, introduced by Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona), entails that sex offenders in violation of parole should be returned to state prisons as well.

According to the prison realignment law, it “effectively transfers responsibility for nonserious, nonviolent and non-Pen C §290 registrable sex offenders from the state to the counties.” Pen C §290 registrable sex offenders must be accounted for while living or working in California. Classified as such, these convicted sex offenders must make this information public to whichever state they reside in the future.

Linder’s bill, though similar to recommendations made by the California Public Safety Committee, was blocked in a vote of 2-4 by Democrats. Public Safety Committee Chairman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) led the opposition, citing the fact that the state provides money to individual counties to deal with prison realignment.

Prison overcrowding associated with realignment is among many serious issues plaguing California’s correctional facilities. Insufficient inmate healthcare, also associated with overcrowding, has also remained sub-par. Inmates often go on hunger strikes and other forms of protest to expose prison shortcomings, whether valid or not.

Regardless, this push to send repeat offenders back to state facilities may or may not aide in the overcrowding problem. It does, however, address the need to keep criminals off the streets, despite how “non-violent” the state deems them to be.

Though California Democrats stuck to their guns and blocked Linder’s bill, Cooley’s legislation should continue to garner support from both parties.

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Amy Rasar
Amy Rasar

I'm the sister of an inmate that was sentenced to 19 yrs in state prison when he was 23 yrs old. What he did was wrong. He was the lookout for a team of 3 that went into a home that sold marijuana and removed the drugs from the home. Nobody was in the apt, nobody was threatened and nobody was harmed. He wasn't a bad kid, he was a stupid one that followed the lead of an older friend of his. Again stupid but was it deserving to give him 19 yrs in prison. NO it wasn't and he has paid for his stupidity for the last 13 yrs. Its a shame that the 3 strike law believes that it is best to house them for most of their life in a prison facility instead of offering counseling, drug treatment and job training. Instead of attempting to rehabilitate young men and women from the juvenile age they throw them in Juvenile Detention centers where they are forced to learn to fight for their lives and adapt to a society that is often damaging to their mental state. The 3 strike law is unfair and should be unconstitutional. It doesn't help the inmates and it will never help the state. I'm all for paying for your crime but the time received should be alligned with the crime committed. :( My brother was wrong for what he did but 19 yrs was the DA's way of paying him back for not testifying against his partners. Its really sad.

Lucas Eaves
Lucas Eaves

Are they not just making county prison overcrowded without addressing the core issue?

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

If inmates go on hunger strikes, that says a lot about the state of the correctional system. Whether or not you stand with prison realignment, the correctional system is unsustainable at the moment.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

i find it interesting how inmates are categorized by their crime. Its a common sense system, but there may also be instances where that system fails to recognize some externalities that invalidate grouping on that scale