Seeking to free up space for inmate rehabilitation, a California panel reviewing prison school and job-training programs will recommend that California stop re-incarcerating some low-risk parole violators, reports the Sacramento Bee. Panel chair Joan Petersilia, a consultant to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the proposal would reduce the prison population by as many as 7,000 over the next year and make more room for inmates who would get more out of the programs. “We need to stop systematically sending low-risk parole violators back to prison,” Petersilia told the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board.
Petersilia said offenders who violate only technical terms of their release, such as missing meetings with parole agents, should be directed to community programs outside the prison system. The panel was created to assess the system’s educational, vocational, drug, and other programs designed to redirect the lives of the state’s 172,727 inmates. One corrections official said a pilot program to assess the rehabilitation needs of inmates, as well as the risks they present to society, got under way last week at four reception centers for incoming offenders. The prison construction bill included money for 16,000 re-entry beds for short-term inmates, including parole violators. The locally based prisons are due to come on line over the next 18 months or so. Corrections Secretary Jim Tilton said that short-term parole violators make up “a population we think we can serve with re-entry.” He said the Schwarzenegger administration is not prepared to offer a wholesale endorsement of a plan to cut back on the reincarceration of low-risk parole violators.