Signaling a sharp turn in attitudes about rehabilitating state prisoners, California lawmakers Tuesday approved a sweeping new program to give inmates more schooling and job training to better prepare them for release, reports the Los Angeles Times. The state assembly narrowly endorsed a bill aimed at reducing the huge proportion of ex-convicts who commit new crimes or parole violations and wind up back behind bars. If signed by the governor, the bill would trigger “an unprecedented shift” in the mission of state prisons, an Assembly analysis said.
“Our recidivism rate is enormously high,” said the bill’s author, Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). “Most of these guys are coming back out to live among us, and it’s in our best interest to do whatever we can to make sure they lead safe, constructive lives.” In recent years, budget cuts have reduced convicts’ access to education programs, with only about one in four inmates finding slots. Critics say such limitations are foolhardy, given research showing lower reincarceration rates for prisoners who attend classes.