Sac Bee Editorial Board: California candidates are “timid on task of prison reform”
The Sacramento Bee editorial board gets it right:
Few accused California Govs. Ronald Reagan or George Deukmejian of being “soft on crime.” But in today’s political climate, who knows? During Reagan’s tenure, the number of prisoners per 100,000 Californians was 121; during Deukmejian’s tenure, it was 230.
Last year, it was 436. Not surprisingly, keeping a much greater proportion of the state’s population behind bars has severely strained the state budget. The state faces an increasingly aged prison population, as lawmakers have created longer and longer sentences and reduced the ability of prisoners to shave off time for good behavior.
This state has a prison population problem and is under a federal court order to reduce it. The next governor and attorney general will inherit that task.
But you won’t hear the candidates making proposals for reversing prison population trends. Driven by fear of the “soft on crime” label, caution is the order of the day.
For what it’s worth, I voiced some opinions about Meg Whitman’s excuse for a criminal justice platform here at the blog, and in a Bee op-ed, earlier this year. Jerry Brown is not ideal either, but I at least feel confident that he understands the issues. After all, he’s the one who presided over the switch to determinate sentencing in the late ’70s that, in some ways, is what got California’s prison spiral going. One thing I can say for certain — having spent much of last spring reading legislative archives from the (first?) Jerry Brown years for a research project — is that I am the only history graduate student I know who’s ever had the option to vote for the subject of her most recent research paper.