Assenbly Member Paul Cook

Posted by The Wild Zimarik in Government, Law Enforcement, Politics, Speaking Out, We The People

Cook Chronicles

September, 2009 | Issue 01 Cook

The Prison crisis

The highest priority of government is to ensure the safety of its people. All the other services provided by the state are secondary. That’s why we are so troubled by early release proposals that could endanger law-abiding Californians due to the Legislature’s failure to budget responsibly.

As part of the budget compromise passed by the Legislature last month, lawmakers are trying to cut $1.2 billion from corrections without endangering public safety. But we expect legislators to offer budget amendments today that could lead to the early release of as many as 27,000 “nonserious” and “nonviolent” prisoners, and create an unaccountable sentencing commission that would be given broad powers to gut vital public safety protections.

Considering the recent violent inmate riot at the prison in Chino, it is increasingly important that these budget cuts do not put our local communities at risk.

With the rate of recidivism at approximately 70 percent, it’s likely the vast majority of these convicts will be back in prison in no time. According to the RAND Corp., it is estimated that, on average, early-release prisoners commit 13 new crimes before being rearrested. Californians could expect 351,000 new offenses as a result of the early release proposal.

This is unacceptable. It makes no sense to give criminals – including potentially some of the individuals who rioted at Chino – another chance to wreak havoc in our communities.

We can save money without releasing dangerous inmates early and putting our families at great risk.

Californians from all walks of life understand that we do need to find savings in our prison system. We can find these savings if Republicans and Democrats work together to study the prisons’ budget line-by-line and cut where appropriate. For example, prison administration costs grew by 105 percent between 2005 and 2008. Surely, we can find significant savings without resorting to early release.

Families in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and across California, are demanding real leadership from lawmakers to address the prison crisis. Approving a plan that opens the cell doors and releases inmates would be the height of irresponsibility.

We are committed to responsibly addressing the challenges facing our prisons and will fight against any attempt to let dangerous criminals walk early. In the coming days, we will do everything we can to ensure that public safety remains the Legislature’s No. 1 priority.

Keeping Our Kids safe

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