California’s State Assembly dipshits should congratulate themselves for a job well done. They finally managed to pass a bill that will reduce the state's prison population by 17,000. All it took was a riot that tore a prison in Chino apart from the inside. That, and a federal court ruling handed down in early August that said the state had to clear 25 percent of its 150,000 prisoner inventory.
Which is good, because the federal judges ruled that “the medical and mental health care available to inmates in the California prison system is woefully and constitutionally inadequate and has been for more than a decade. The special three-judge panel also described a "chaotic prison system where prisoners were stacked in triple bunk beds in gymnasiums, hallways and day rooms; where single guards were often forced to monitor scores of inmates at a time; and where ill inmates died for lack of treatment."
“In these overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent, infectious diseases spread more easily, and lockdowns are sometimes the only means by which to maintain control,” the panel wrote. “In short, California’s prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage.”
The judges wrote the above opinion three days before inmates trashed and burned Chino in a riot that left a few hundred prisoners badly injured after they went at it, bashing heads with lead pipes and gouging eyes with shards of broken glass. A whole wing will have to be built from scratch, and some of the inmates are still in critical condition. Totally rough, but it wasn’t hard to see this coming. California’s state prisons have the highest inmate count in America, twice the size the penal system was designed to house. (For example, Chino was holding nearly 6,000 prisoners, but had a maximum capacity of 3,000.) Every year, prisons here are looking more and more like they do in Russia, including the Russkie perennial favorite: multi-strain resistant TB. And yet prison authorities blamed the Chino riot on racial tensions between Mexicans and blacks. That's the kind of analysis that makes everyone happy—blame it all on those wild colored folks, rather than on state barbarism.
But there’s something even crazier. See, California's politicians didn’t approve the early release program because prison conditions had become so inhumane. (In August, a panel of federal judges ruled that the state's prison system "violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.") And they sure as hell didn't agree to it because it was the moral thing to do. No, the state Assembly did it only because they needed to balance the annual budget. Because if they don't let the prisoners go, a whole lot of Californians are going to lose their jobs. And all that excess budget fat hanging off California’s penal carcass made prison expenses a prime target. California spends almost twice as other states on warehousing its inmates: $50,000 per person per year, or $8,000,000,000 for all of them.
The LA Times says what finally got California's politicians motivated was layoffs, pay cuts, and hiring freezes for their own kind. Big surprise that politicians and their staff don't give a shit about what's best for the people, that they only do what keeps them fat, happy, and in power.
Hell, half of the Democrats in the state Assembly broke with their party and voted against the prisoner release because they were up for reelection and didn't want to fall on their sword for the future of California by opening themselves up to the "soft on crime" label. And those who did vote yes did so after cutting out provisions in the bill that would have softened sentences for non-violent and petty crimes, pretty much guaranteeing that a lot of the 17,000 prisoners they release will be back on the state prison welfare system in no time at all. Right now if a junkie with a criminal record steals a ghetto blaster worth a penny over $400, it'll be considered grand theft, a felony with a big ol' fine and a one-year prison term.
And if that doesn't get them thrown back in, then the economy will: think about releasing ex-cons into an environment where real unemployment is hovering somewhere around 20 to 30 percent? Not much construction work around these days, either. Of course they're gonna come right back. Even without a recession, 70 percent of all ex-inmates violate their parole and end up back in prison, according to a recent article in the Economist, which called California's prisons "gulags in the sun."
All of this makes me think of my adopted hometown of Victorville, California, a city with the highest parolee population in San Bernadino county:
"The open spaces, affordable housing and rural qualities of the Victor Valley that attract families may be the same factors drawing to the region parolees avoiding densely-packed urban areas.
The concentration of parolees in the Victor Valley and neighboring communities is nearly 50 percent higher than all of San Bernardino County, according to the most recent estimates available.
More than 2,700 parolees--including 239 parolees at large--currently reside in the Victor Valley and a few dozen other communities served by the Victorville parole station, including Barstow, Hinkley, Needles, Yermo, Joshua Tree, and Trona, according to new data released by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
That means parolees make up about 0.7 percent of the local population and only 0.5 percent of the county population, according to U.S. Census data. The local region represents only 19 percent of the county's population, but it's home to 26 percent of the county's parolees.
'The High Desert is a place where you can still afford to live, you can find very affordable housing, and we have some land, so those factors are going to make it more enticing for parolees to come to, unfortunately,' said Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale."
And that means a whole lot of parolees are about to descend on my hood, "Brentwoodz," as we locals call it. What they'll find is that there are no jobs here and that they'd be wasting time trying to find one. One guy I know who works part time construction here gets one full day of work a week. One full day of minimum wage comes out to 50 or 60 bucks a day—or in his case, a week.
This might be the single worst time to release prisoners, for them and for us. The upside to this is entertaining news in the local crime porn section. Like this drive-by peek-a-boo tableau the other night, just a few blocks from my house, in which a gangbanger on parole dodged one bullet, only to catch another a few hours later. The thought of all these bored parolees aimlessly strolling around town makes me wish I had 10 to 20 million dollars. That way, I could put all the ex-cons on payroll and make them into my own personal Class War army that could be deployed to any place in the country on a moment's notice. Say, for example, the next Tea Party rally... Or Americans For Prosperity town hall meeting.