The Sacramento Bee comes out for sensible, workable prison policy solutions, including an independent sentencing commission, that would reduce our prison budget and actually make the state safer.
That leaves the biggest issue that legislators need to tackle: California’s jumble of complicated, inconsistent and confusing sentencing laws. Other states have resolved the mess by creating an independent, professional, nonpartisan sentencing commission. The time is ripe for California to do the same.
In other states, successful sentencing commissions collect past and current sentencing information and analyze the impact of sentencing changes on prison populations, budgets and crime rates. They recommend an organizing framework for sentencing. Details on who makes appointments and who serves (judges, district attorneys, law enforcement, etc.) get worked out on a bipartisan basis.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg have shown interest in getting a bill passed. Assembly Bill 1376, which passed the Assembly and is now in the Senate, is the vehicle.
These prison solutions have been discussed for three decades; it’s time to act.
It’s about time this was recognized. As General Barry McCaffrey has written, we have an addiction to prison in this country, and in particular in this state. An all-too-prevalent “out of sight, out of mind” attitude has blinded the political leadership to the consequences of warehousing prisoners without giving them the tools to pay their debt to society and move on in a positive, successful fashion. The sentencing commission bill has languished for years; it’s time to ignore fear and get this done.