About two of three Californians favor spending money to rehabilitate prison inmates and parolees convicted of drug or property crimes, found a survey commissioned by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The poll found that a similar proportion believed a lack of life skills, such as vocational training, was a major factor in recidivism. “People think that prisons make people worse and that life skills are necessary to make it on the outside,” said Barry Krisberg, president of the Oakland-based council. “You get a sense that people know the current system is not working.”
California’s tough sentencing laws and a recidivism rate of more than 50 percent have pushed the prison population to 163,000 and the annual budget to $5.7 billion. “With the recidivism numbers we’re seeing, we clearly have to do something different to provide for public safety,” said Roderick Hickman, corrections secretary. “We have to stop the spiral of continual victimization and reoffending.” The California Department of Corrections has deemphasized rehabilitation for years, but the poll found that 8 percent of respondents want only incarceration for drug and property crimes, while 63 percent favor providing rehabilitation services, even after release. The corrections department wants to spend $141 million for vocational and educational programs next year – a $4-million increase. Academic programs would get a $14.2-million boost; vocational education would see a $10.2-million decrease.