Don’t Expect A Broken Government To Yield An Unbroken Result

So the modest prison reform deal between legislative leaders and the Governor stalled out in the Assembly last night, and the chamber adjourned for the weekend.  Not enough Democrats could be convinced to support the deal, particularly the ones with designs on statewide office or in perceived swing districts.

Let’s explain right away what this says about the broken legislative process in Sacramento.  It’s infuriating that the bill was rushed to the floor without the votes on the Assembly side and without any kind of education campaign to explain the stakes to the public.  Federal judges will release 44,000 prisoners.  We can either do it smartly or stupidly.  There is no other choice.

We knew that $1.2 billion in prison budget cuts had to be allocated for a month.  This plan was, in fact, pretty much in place for a month.  Did anyone in leadership say a word about it?  Did they whip their caucus?  Did they explain that without this, a federal judge will use a potentially haphazard process to release prisoners without any reforms, and even if the legislature tries to shift the blame, THEY WILL BE BLAMED ANYWAY because citizens habitually view the legislature as the source of most of the state’s troubles?

Instead, the debate gets ruled by Yacht Party misinformation:

Sen. John Benoit, R-Palm Desert, spoke in favor of shutting down some juvenile jails instead of freeing inmates since the population of younger offenders has dropped. “It’s a shame we’re doing this in such a hurry,” he said.

And Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, spoke out for cutting rehabilitation money rather than letting prisoners out. “The immediate safety of the public must take precedence,” she said.

Not only does it do that (overcrowding has led to the lack of space for rehabilitation and treatment programs and the nation’s highest recidivism rate, which leads to additional needless crime), but the package put together by the legislature WOULD do that.  Schwarzenegger’s line-item reductions as part of this deal would cut $180 million in rehab and treatment programs, which is completely insane.  That said, the sentencing commission that would come to fruition in this bill is quite important, and those Democrats in the Assembly holding it up are rank cowards who don’t have no belief in the value of their own ideas.  Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod does:

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod said, “Do you all live in a parallel world?” She said federal authorities that have found California prisons too overcrowded are going to use their power to release prisoners and that it would be preferable for the state to have control over that process.

“I trump each and everyone of you with children and grandchildren. And you know what? I’m not scared,” she said, referring to several GOP senators’ references to how they feared for their children’s safety.

Still, in the end this is a process problem.  The backroom dealmaking made by legislative leaders who have no sway over their caucuses leads to embarrassing results like this.  The power of special interests leads to calculations that changes must be made in the dead of night, and the power of money in politics means that fear can rule over hope.  Individual cowardly lawmakers in thrall to Tough On Crime thinking led us down this road, but a broken government certainly keeps us there.  And it’s not, as this shows, just about 2/3.

…I’m hearing that “Crime Victims United,” a front group for the prison guard’s union which has never received one donation from anyone else, claimed sex offenders would get early release despite being exempted specifically in the bill.  They out and out lied, and would have done so in ads in lawmakers’ districts.  Crime Victims United should be investigated by the FPPC and disbanded.  They’re an astroturf group using fear and falsehoods to shield a protected class from having to give back their largesse from the state treasury.  Ultimately, this is about cowardice on the part of lawmakers, but the influence of money plays a big role.

6 thoughts on “Don’t Expect A Broken Government To Yield An Unbroken Result”

  1. Why does it so often seem that women are the ones willing to take the tough stands? Good on you Gloria!

  2. these republican wankers need to be the ones in jail for trying to run this state into the ground, deny kids their education, waste state money, and close down women’s shelters.

    so let’s lock them up, and the CCPOA prison guards have have their precious overtime. The CCPOA is like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and overtime is their golden ring. Even though the average salary for prison guards was only 20k in 1980, and is now near six figures.  

  3. on state prison population rate per 100,000 people or what not?

    According to the Department of Justice,

    we have 12.8 percent of the country’s prisoners (California’s prison population / (Total prison population – Feds).

    and 12 percent of the nation’s population

    So it doesn’t look California is really more tough on crime than any other state in the union. Considering California is more urban and has large African-American and Hispanic Populations, and is a border state, California probably has WEAKER crime laws than other states.

    Consider Texas is also a border state with similar demographics, has the same number of inmates as California even though they have a much smaller population.

    This is why Jerry Brown and other people who are running for statewide office are following the people’s will.

  4. Term limits, and money are the process type problems here, but is this really at base a process problem or one of character?

    The fact that some Democratic legislators seem to have the guts to speak the truth and vote accordingly speaks to the issue of character.

    When I hinted to my Assembly rep the idea that perhaps Bass was not a good leader, I was pretty much told ‘don’t go there, the people aiming to get rid of her are worse.’

    Perhaps they are, but how on earth would we know?  

Comments are closed.