Legislator calls for inmate rehabilitation oversight

Tom Lackey

State legislators introduced a bill calling for an analysis on the effectiveness of California’s prisons, but Gov. Jerry Brown is considering multiple investments in rehabilitation as part of his budget.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Antelope Valley, said Assembly Bill 1929 would require the state’s inspector general to evaluate rehabilitation programs and report to the Legislature over a 10-year period beginning in July 2019. Lackey authored and introduced the bill last month.

“The budget includes $454.4 million, for in-prison rehabilitation programs, compared to approximately $300 million in 2012-13. While I support increased spending on prison and parole-based rehabilitation programs, it is important for the Legislature to determine which programs are most effective and to target our resources in a way that will maximize positive outcomes for participating offenders,” Lackey said in a statement. “The goal of this analysis is not only to maximize state dollars but more importantly to ensure everything is being done to improve the quality of life for those who have served their sentence and are re-entering their communities.”

Existing law only requires a review when the inspector general is requested to review policies by the governor, the Senate Rules Committee or the Assembly Speaker.

Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said in a statement that he is seeing bipartisan support for addressing recidivism.

“We are essentially living in a state-sanctioned jailbreak where prisoners are set free without any enhanced supervision, or addiction treatment services for those who need it,” Wilk said in a statement. “Republicans have been sounding the alarm on this since day one so I am glad to see some bipartisan interest in actually doing something.”

Officials with Lackey’s Sacramento office said Monday a report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office sparked the creation of his bill. The report by the LAO said 46 percent—16,500—of the 36,000 inmates released in the state’s prison system in 2012 and 2013 were convicted of a crime within three years of their release.

As part of his budget, Brown appropriated: $26 million for a program to have former inmates become firefighters; $16 million for a job finding program; $6.7 million for expansion of career technical education; and $2.5 million to support inmate self-help groups.

Wilk said he would like to see education investment as a means of reducing the prison population.

“Keeping people out of prison in the first place is the best remedy to recidivism. Demographers use third-grade literacy rates to determine the future prison population. Investing in and reforming California’s K-12 system would stop the school to prison pipeline. No student should pass third grade without being able to read,” he said in a statement.

The proposals come as prosecutors up and down the state are hoping voters will support a ballot initiative to reform Propositions 47 and 57. The initiative would reclassify crimes such as domestic violence, hate crimes and child abduction as felonies, expand DNA collection and reform the parole system by tightening penalties for violations.

Proposition 47 reduced certain non-violent felonies to misdemeanors when it was approved by voters in 2014. Proposition 57 hastened the release of some non-violent offenders from prison when it was given the go-ahead by voters in 2016.

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