Friday Feedback: Prison Reform

istock_000001483014xsmall.jpgFridays the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment submitted by Diane Lefer commenting on “First Solve Prison Crisis, Then Fix California’s Budget,”  by Dick Price

Here’s Diane’s comment:

Thank you for this commitment!

People are understandably appalled when violent offenders get early release and go on to commit horrendous crimes, including the recent murder of Chelsea King for which a parolee has been arrested. What is less understood is that thousands of people — including juveniles as young as 13 — are being handed life sentences, including life without any possibility of parole. Children routinely receive harsher sentences than do adults. These include convictions for incidents in which no one was injured. Multiply handicapped inmates in wheelchairs, in weak and even dying condition, are being denied parole. Parole Board decisions are arbitrary and capricious and in the rare instances when parole is recommended, almost all of these recommendations are overruled by Governor Schwarzenegger.

As for obstacles in the way of reform, I don’t blame all corrections officers. I know of cases in which guards would have testified in favor of parole for an inmate but the system does not permit this. Only people opposed to the granting of parole are allowed to speak–and this includes victims rights advocates who have no direct knowledge of the case and have no connection whatsoever with the prisoner.

I also know of one corrections union official who believes many prisoners do not belong incarcerated, who has led demonstrations for reform, and who blames overcrowding and negative conditions for the absence of education and vocational programs and for much prison violence and prison rape.

The conditions in California’s prisons today make it near impossible for the best corrections officers in the system to do their jobs in a meaningful way. At the same time, incessant media coverage of the most heinous crimes makes it difficult to advance a case for prison reform.

We need to speak!

Published by the LA Progressive on March 19, 2010
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