Two and a half years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons were overcrowded, and that the prison system could not hold more than 109, 805 inmates at a time. The ruling also required state prison officials to reduce the inmate population by about 33,000 criminals.
Prior to the ruling, Democrats drafted legislation (AB 109) that reduced the prison population by a larger number, subsequently sending inmates to local county jails, which traditionally aren’t designed to hold dangerous prisoners serving longer sentences. AB 109 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
By trying to solve this problem in a unilateral, partisan manner, and before they had all the facts, the Democrats created a mess for themselves. This was a mess primarily due to the court rejecting several of their proposals that they are now trying to clean up.
AB 109 was staunchly opposed by several victim’s rights groups, local leaders, and law enforcement officials. Their prime concern was that Governor Brown and legislative Democrats didn’t take into consideration that many local jails were already overcrowded. To make matters worse, many proposals offered by community leaders and Republicans were rejected although in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.
Some of the proposed programs would have kept more dangerous criminals under the watchful eye of state parole agents, state officials would be able to monitor sex offenders and parolees, and ensure that any state prison savings gained by shifting criminals to local jails would be reinvested towards local law enforcement programs.
The shift of more than 65,000 offenders from state to local jurisdiction has led to the early release of thousands of criminals. Many of them when released have gone on to commit other crimes, when they would have otherwise been sitting in state prison.
With their “go-at-it-alone” approach and insistence on “acting like they are the smartest people in the legislature,” Jerry Brown and Democrats have created this problem and are now throwing up their arms in frustration. As they continue to hem and haw, our community has to deal with the impact of thousands of inmates being released early.
Luis Alvarado is a Strategic Advisor to Revolvis Consulting and a political analyst for CNN Español and Telemundo.