California is in the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis. The corrections budget has been slashed by $1.2 billion. The state is under federal court order to reduce the number of prison inmates.
California has a 70-percent recidivism rate, the highest in the nation. As well as approximately 170,000 inmates, the most in the nation. So what will California do to address dwindling prison resources?
The corrections department is cutting treatment programs, education programs and vocational programs. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 20,000 inmates will be denied programming. In fact, San Quentin Prison will shut-down 13 of 19 programs.
California appears to be moving in the opposite direction of most states. Texas is contemplating closing prisons as a result of recent investments in prison treatment. Texas attributes reductions in recidivism to their aggressive treatment efforts. Bill Sabol of the U.S. Justice Department told the Houston Chronicle that Texas was one of two states showing the biggest drop in imprisonment rates. The number of people imprisoned per 100,000 population decreased by 30, going from 669 to 639 per 100,000.
Between 1985 and 2005, the state prison population grew 300 percent and Texas spent $2.3 billion adding 108,000 beds. The Chronicle reported that by 2005, Texas had reached a turning point: Either spend half a billion dollars to house 17,000 new prisoners or spend less than half that amount to reduce the prison population through treatment programs. The result was 10,000 beds were set aside for substance abuse and mental programs for probationers, parolees and prisoners.
A study conducted to determine if treatment would pay for itself in California suggested that every dollar spent on treatment would save taxpayers seven dollars in costs associated with re-incarceration. Savings are primarily attributed to reduced crime and increased employment earnings.
A recent study by the Cognitive Behavior Treatment Review found that cognitive-behavioral programming could reduce recidivism by as much as 21-percent.
In spite of compelling research California has opted to ignore evidence-based research to save a short term buck at the expense of the long term safety of its residents. In classic doublespeak, Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate suggests that the reductions in treatment funding are, "Landmark achievements that will reduce crime."
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