Problematic California Prison System Essay

786 words - 3 pages

California has one of the most dysfunctional and problematic prison system in US. Over the last 30 years, California prison increased eightfolds (201). California Department of Correctional and Rehabilitation (CDCR) does little to reform prisoners and serve as human warehouse rather than a correction institution. California's prison system fails the people it imprisons and society it tries to protect. In many cases, California's prison system exacerbates the pre-existing problems and aids in the formation of new problems for prisoners. This paper discuses the criminogenic effects of overcrowding, and reduction/elimination of programs and how it negatively affects California and the ballooning prison population and possible remedies.
Historical Factors
Starting in 1970s, there has been an upward adjustment to sentencing making punishment more punitive and sentencing guidelines more strict. Martinson's (1974) meta-analyzies reviewed over 200 studies and concluded that nothing works in terms of rehabilitating prisoners. Rehabilitating efforts were discontinued. The War on Drugs campaign in 1970s incarcerated thousands of non-violent drug offenders into the system. In 1865, 34.3% of prison population were imprisoned for drug violation. By 1995, the percentage grew to 59.9% (figure 4.1, 104). Legislation policies like the Third Strikes laws of 1994 have further the severity of sentencing. The shift from rehabilitation to human warehouse marks the end of an era of trying to reform individuals and the beginnings of locking inmates without preparation of their release. Along with the reform in the 1970s, prosecutors are given more discretion at the expense of judges. Prosecutors are often pressure to be tough on crime by the society that elects them and thus, highly motivated to seek higher sentencing without taking in consideration of defendants' special circumstances.
Criminogenic Factors
In the best of times, prison is bad place. Prison strictly regulate the inmates, thus leaving little room for personal choice. Under the watchful eyes of guards and other inmates, privacy is non-existent. Personal space is shared with other inmates and conflicts ensued. Add in criminogenic factors like overcrowding, and reduction/elimination of programs and prison life can be unbearable.

On average, CDCR imprisons over 167,000 adult prisoners and is operating at 188% capacity (Lynch, Lecture 3-1-10) while the recidivism rate of prisoners in a study is 34% (221). With stricter policies, the prison population grew faster than the...

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