Today prison rates in California are higher than in any other state in the United States. “California has, by the largest general population of any state in the nation, with more than 36 million people. Therefore, it cannot be a surprise-or unexpected-that we also have the largest prison population, with 172,000 inmates” (Reynolds). California has always been considered to be a state that stood on its own accord. Once considered the most powerful state in the nation, California now suffers one economic crisis after another and seems to be drowning in economic failures. Recently, California has experienced massive employee layoffs, state-sanctioned furloughs, numerous corporation failures, and enormous educational reductions that have all but crippled K-12 and higher education throughout the State. It is easy to realize why the prison system has stopped future growth plans and all but scraped modernization and renovation projects on the table.
“Lawyers for the state have argued that the federal courts lack the authority to order prison reforms costing billions of dollars, especially at a time when California is facing a $40 billion deficit.”(Moore). Overcrowded prisons are an obvious issue in California and one which many states in the United States now find themselves facing. With the economic perspective in dire straits throughout most high population geographical areas in the United States, questions are being raised as how to solve this growing crisis.
While many states struggle with this dilemma, many are focusing on a way to decrease the prison population rather than building facilities to accommodate more criminals. This proposed solution offers a decreased criminal prison time for many long term prison offense thus decreasing budgets by spending considerable less on prison construction. In addition, lower bail and easier bail outs were proposed, thus eliminating a percentage of the populace to be house. However, thus far, all proposals have been denied. “In March 2006, a proposal was submitted as part of my 2006-07 budget to enable the CDCR to contract for a total of 8,500 beds in community correctional facilities within the state; and whereas, the California Legislature denied this proposal.”(McPherson). “Prisons nationwide are overcrowded, and it is getting worse.”(Marwah). It is evident that the problem in California prisons is basically one of overcrowding. Further adding to this ever increasing condition is the dismal economic circumstances that California finds itself. When it seems almost impossible to even balance the State budget by supplying basic human staples such as welfare for the poor and needy, a decent education to primary and secondary students, and wages for its workers, providing prisons for those accused of damaging the system and its populace is low on the list of priorities.
As we continue to face the growing economic challenges in play in California, we cannot dismiss this ever increasing problem as a budgetary non-essential item. Some believe that the ever increasing issue of overcrowding prisons is primarily due to the Three Strikes Law. The Three Strikes Law was signed in 1994 by then Governor Pete Wilson. The basic tenants of the Three Strikes Law is the mandating of a life prison sentence to any felon convicted of three (3) separate and distinct felonies in his or her lifetime. This law is brought up for further review as many believe that certain felonies should not be considered as elemental in this law. As the law dictates life imprisonment, the punishment for each of the separate crimes should also be so egresses as to merit the stated punishment.
For example, felonies such as ________________ and ________________________ are counted as offenses eligible for this edict. Many believe that the minor offenses do not deserve the same punishment as violent repeat offenders deserve. “Some nonviolent offenders could serve…