Can not help but think that every state in the nation is going to be watching California as it goes through the process of down sizing its prison population by some 30,000 non-violent inmates. The one thing to be said by it is that they have budgeted additional money to grow the parole and probation offices to handle the case load. Additionally, they are starting now well ahead of the deadline with incremental releases.
Years ago, Florida was given a like order and as I have been told by inmates that went through the process they woke up one morning, were handed “gate money,” and a set of civilian clothes, a bus ticket and taken to the bus terminal in Jacksonville with no supervision or assistance after release. Don’t know what the statistics were on that technique but by all accounts I have heard from corrections staff and inmates the overnight and chaotic downsizing was a disaster.
California is also considering holding convicted felons in county jails. This too could be a disasters as county jails are not designed to handle convicted felons for any length of time. You mix these inmates with the short term holding of non-violent inmates as well as flooding the county jails and it is a recipe for all kinds of abuses. Where as the inmate on inmate abuses will grow out of proportion to what they are now as the supervision will decrease, the worst part will be the potential of abuses by jail staffs that are overworked and dealing with stresses way beyond what they have now.
Worse than the staff being over stressed is the families of the staff will pay the additional price in terms of domestic abuse and suicide rates. Where as I have seen and heard of cases of domestic abuses in the 12 step rooms as well as a rural medical clinic where I have volunteered, more so have I heard of it from their kids that found their way into the jails and prisons where I have volunteered. Correction staff have among the highest suicide rates in the country and that is a fact.
Another situation that will surely raise its head is the level of violence and degree of chaos for those left behind. You reduce the pool of non-violent inmates in prisons and the violent and remaining long timers become more concentrated. This means a lot of inmates who are not normally associated with the labor pool of running a prison will find themselves doing work in what could be considered sensitive areas.
There is a really big problem in any of these scenarios. That is our young mother with dependent children being thrown into the street without much preparation or support will have precious few options in getting her children back much less being able to support them. Most likely she will have to fall back on criminal skills as well as access to criminal networks she connected with and developed while in prison. Her other option is to return to the environment she left prior to prison. None of which bodes well for the kids who most likely have been shuffled around while the mother has been doing her time.
Where as most of this speculation is unknown, there is precious little hope in those dealing with the situation of a favorable outcome as the links below will speak to:
As Prisoner Exchange Begins, LA County Officials Predict Doom
Transfer Of Non-Violent Inmates From CA Prisons To County Jails Set To Begin
LA District Attorney Warns Of A ‘Public Safety Nightmare’ Over Inmate Transfers
LAT: Baca Wants Sheriff’s Dept, Not Probation Officers, To Handle Parolees