Tag Archives: Jim Beall

The Kindest Cut

Nobody likes the road that the budget appears to be going down, but one side benefit, perhaps the only one, is that we might yet have a conversation about the unjust and costly prison crisis that has deeply impacted the current situation.  Here’s Asm. Jim Beall (D-Campbell) yesterday:

We’ve got to reduce spending on our highest cost-drivers, prisons and health care. The prison budget has doubled in the past decade to $10 billion. The state has 173,000 inmates… Yet, California has a 70 percent recidivism rate. We aren’t producing the results for the money we spend… For over half of the prisoners, drugs or alcohol played some role in their crimes. A 2006 UCLA study said 42 percent of our inmates needed alcohol treatment and 56 percent needed drug treatment. It’s clear: The state should emphasize alcohol and drug treatment programs and prevention education.

Absolutely.  Now, the way that the Governor is going about this, by just trying to dump undocumented immigrants in prison on the ICE and mass release without restructuring and treatment and rehab, is of course dicey.  He will be helped by the Administration’s effort to identify every undocumented immigrant and ready them for deportation, but that’s a years-long process.

However, there are signals that the powerful prison guard’s union knows exactly what could be coming – and they’re trying to get out in front of it by voluntarily offering well over $6 billion in cuts.  Most of it goes to capping prison health care, which has already been found to be Constitutionally inadequate, and halting prison expansion through AB900, which I think is spent through bond issues and not the General Fund.  But there are other interesting recommendations in there:

2. Save up to $500 million by trimming CDCR administrative staff, which has ballooned by 400 new positions in recent months and more than doubled two of the department’s administrative divisions […]

7. Save potentially hundreds of millions of dollars ($20,000 per parolee) by embracing our past recommendation to expand Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Reentry Court and Revocation Court.

9. Save millions by no longer providing CDCR managers and headquarters staff with state vehicles and mileage allowances for commuting to work.

10. Conduct annual performance audits to determine which parole and rehabilitation programs are achieving their goals.

Remember, these are the prison guard’s union’s recommendations.  They have an interest in keeping jails packed and ensuring overtime for their employees to manage the overcrowding.  And even they understand both the need for cost-cutting and the need to expand the role of drug treatment and mental health rather than defaulting to incarceration.  They’re behind the curve and still modest in their goals,  but significantly, the ball is moving in the direction of reducing prison costs for the first time in a long while.  Obviously, jumping from this to reforming sentencing and keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison and into treatment won’t be easy, and the residual “tough on crime” stance still predominates among the political class.  But finally, we’re having the conversation as a crisis forces the issue.  Democrats ought to take this and run with it, and demand the kind of sane prison policies here that we see in Kansas and Texas.

…incidentally, buried within the Legislative Analyst’s cost-cutting proposals was one recommending “altering California’s three-strikes law.”  We’re starting to get serious.

Health Care, SB 840, and The Denial of Reason

I attended a town hall put on by the Speaker along with some of the Bay Area Assembly Delegation (Leno, Laird, Beall, Ma, and Hiyashi).  It was good times.  Well, it did kind of drag.  I will say one thing, if Fabian Nunez ever decides that politics isn’t the thing for him, he’s got a future in talk show hosting.  I can picture it now…a bilingual talk show featuring the best of California’s crazies.  It would put Springer to shame!

Well, as I drift back to reality, let’s go back to health care talk.  First of all, these things sorta go like this: All of the electeds give their schpiel, their pet issue or whatever, and then all the “panelists” give their opinions and then the “host”, in this case the speaker, intersperses pointed questions to get the conversation where they want it.  It’s all quite well staged (except this time we had some bad mikes) and usually runs like clockwork.  Well, it was no different this time either. 

The speaker laid out the Assembly Democratic Caucus plan.  It’s a better start than the Schwarzenegger’s plan for a number of reasons.  It doesn’t peg the percentage employer contribution, it includes all businesses greater than two employees, and it will cover a lot more people.  Of course, it is still not single payer.  They addressed this by saying that they clearly supported single payer and believe that we will get there, but with the current governor, we have to do something.  The Assembly Dems said they will pass SB 840, but a plan that can actually get signed by Arnold is important too.

And all of this is true.  Follow me over the flip…

So why the denial of reason? Well that would be the Assembly Republicans who think we can just toy around the edges of our health care system.  The Senate Republicans releases a “plan” and the Assemly GOPers plan to do the same.  But what can be said of those plans?  Well, start with the fact that they don’t cover everybody, even all children, they don’t address administration costs, and they don’t really lower health care costs.

That my friends is obstruction of the worst kind: it puts a band aid on a gushing wound.  Does the band aid do anything? No, it’s just a foreign object in a wound that will only serve to make the wound worse.  Same thing with the GOP plans.

I’ve got some more videos online from the event below.
The Speaker:

Jim Beall (D-Santa Clara)

Mary Hiyashi (D-East Bay)

John Laird (D-Santa Cruz)