Three decades of tough-on-crime lawmaking has sent California’s prison system into a “tailspin,” creating the most pressing crisis facing the state, the government’s nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission said yesterday, reports the Los Angeles Times. In a blistering 84-page report, the panel linked the problems plaguing the correctional system to cowardice among governors and lawmakers fearful of being labeled soft on crime.
If policymakers are unwilling to make bold changes, the commission said, they should appoint an independent entity like the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission to do it for them. The report included suggestions for sentencing reform and other changes. It broke new ground by stating bluntly that when it comes to corrections in California, political posturing has trumped sound lawmaking. The state’s 33 prisons are packed to twice their intended capacity, with more than 16,000 inmates bunking in hallways, classrooms, and other areas not designed as housing. Prison leaders will be out of room for new inmates by summer, and concern about riots is extremely high.