The California legislature quickly passed a sweeping spending package to ease overcrowding in California prisons yesterday but did not tackle several problems that experts say are driving the long-running crisis, reports the Los Angeles Times. While lawmakers celebrated a vote to add 53,000 beds to the corrections system and boost rehabilitation for inmates, critics worried that ideas left out of the $7.4-billion deal might be sidelined for good. The package excluded any effort to deal with the state’s discredited parole system. Also omitted was a panel to review state sentencing laws. A proposal that has drawn high marks from criminologists – to move 4,500 nonviolent female offenders out of prison to correctional centers near their homes – was missing.
“This is a deal about practical politics and beds,” said criminogist Franklin Zimring of the University of California-Berkeley law school. “So it’s going to satisfy the Sealy mattress company, and that’s about it.” Sen Tom McClintock complained that, “In keeping with this casual approach to our state’s finances, there is absolutely nothing in this measure to contain costs.” The prison guards’ union charged that the plan wold add more beds at prisons that are plagued by violence and severely understaffed. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata acknowledged the danger to officers and said he was supporting the package with “grave reservations,” skeptical that it would improve the troubled prisons. “There’s not a Democrat here this morning who likes this bill,” Perata said.