The fury in Sacramento over the early releases of a few hundred inmates has set the stage for a more massive but less detectable state prisoner population shift about to unfold, reports the Sacramento Bee. By the end of the year, another 6,300 offenders who otherwise would have been behind prison bars will instead be on the streets – and the debate already is raging on the public safety fallout. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, which pushed for the bill that led to the prison population reduction to save money in a cash-strapped state, contends it will make the state safer.
More parole supervision time will be reserved for the truly dangerous, a prison spokesman said, and more inmates will complete rehab programs to smooth their transition into free society – even if it comes six weeks earlier than their sentences prescribed. Law enforcement and victims’ rights groups counter that the offender population shift from inside to out is a high-risk move. They say police budgets slashed in depressed local economies mean fewer cops available to cope with increased numbers of car thieves, drunken drivers, and spousal abusers. “The legislation was based on a lie that the prisons are filled with low-level offenders who pose no real threat to public safety, and that is absolutely not true,” said political consultant Ray McNally, who represents the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and Crime Victims United of California.