Wednesday, February 21, 2007

California Can't Outsource It's Prisoners

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's troubled prison system was dealt a setback Tuesday when a judge ruled the state cannot ease its severe overcrowding by transferring inmates elsewhere.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reacted angrily, saying dangerous convicts might otherwise have to be released early. The administration said it will ask a court to block the order from taking effect while it considers an appeal.

The governor invoked emergency powers in October when he ordered the Corrections Department to send thousands of inmates to private prisons in other states. Two employee unions, including the one representing guards, filed lawsuits alleging the order violated state law.

I know the Bush administration has outsourced torture and got away with it, but no dice for the Governator. Perhaps he can pardon all the marijuana smokers in jail to clear room for violent felons if that is the concern. They are building prisons as fast as they can, so it's time to think outside the box.

The prison guards are a powerful interest in California politics. However, what interests them, and what are the interests of the people are often different things. Violent criminals should stay locked up. Who in prison though isn't violent? Can more home dententions on ankle bracelets, work release with restitution, decriminalizing drug offenders be used to shrink the crowding? Of course so. We don't need to turn states into prisoner rental centers when all options haven't been tried.