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California's Correctional Paradox of Excess and Deprivation (From Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 37, P 207-278, 2008, Michael Tonry, ed. - See NCJ-242161)

NCJ Number
Joan Petersilia
Date Published
72 pages
This essay discusses California's correctional system.
Rapidly expanding prison populations in California have brought a host of management challenges. One in seven State prisoners is housed there. California spends more than $9 billion a year on its correctional system, yet 66 percent of released inmates return to prison within 3 years. Prison assaults, homicide, and suicides are more common in California than nationally, fueled by a growing number of gang-affiliated prisoners and inmates serving long "three strikes" sentences. Few improvements have occurred despite a much-touted reform effort beginning in 2003. Some blame the politically potent prison guards union, because guards' high salaries leave little funding for inmate programs. Others blame California's determinate sentencing laws, which makes parole release automatic. California needs to reverse its three-decade-old determinate sentencing law, establish a sentencing commission, implement evidence-based rehabilitation programs, adopt a parole violation decision matrix, invest in intermediate sanctions, and work collaboratively with communities on reentry programs. (Published Abstract)