NY Times calls out California

In a NY Times editorial, state lawmakers are exhorted to “find their spine” on prison reform.  While praising Schwarzenegger for his commitment to spend more on education than on prisons, the editorial blasts his alternative proposals to pass yet another constitutional amendment to limit state spending or to privatize the entire prison system.

The paper claims that privatization may lead to savings, but predicts that private corporations would seek profit at the expense of high-quality inmate care.  It also points out that any constitutional amendment to limit prison spending would prove fruitless if the surplus prison population is not properly addressed.

The Times cites misguided sentencing policies, an excessive number of minor offenders, and a powerful corrections officers’ lobby as the primary culprits in the golden state’s extremely costly and inefficient prison system.  

The editorial raises a number of thought provoking issues and attempts to ascertain the root cause of California’s overcrowded prisons. Often, attempts to reform the bloated, inefficient, and expensive system are characterized as “being soft on crime”, but a more objective analysis clearly reveals the urgent necessity for a whole new approach.  Much like the current budget crisis, quick fixes and status quo policies have failed to deliver sustained results.  

Maintaining public safety, while reducing a bureaucratic nightmare, will require a brand new strategy.  Perhaps a closer, more fair-minded look at marijuana legalization could serve as a potential catalyst in thinking outside the box on this critical, fiscal and safety issue.