An effort to slash prison costs in California by laying off hundreds of workers who run rehabilitation programs could backfire, resulting in higher recidivism rates and ultimately higher prison costs, critics tell the San Francisco Chronicle. Over the next several months, officials will shave $250 million from rehabilitation spending and dismiss about 850 prison workers who run substance abuse and anger management programs, help inmates get high school diplomas, and teach offenders marketable skills such as plumbing, horticulture, and graphic arts.
About 57,000 of 170,000 state prisoners take advantage of the education programs each year, and 12,000 enroll in substance abuse classes. The cuts mean that 17,000 fewer inmates will be able to enroll in academic and vocational programs and 3,500 fewer inmates will be able to enroll in substance abuse programs. California has a 70 percent recidivism rate, supposedly the nation’s highest. That number will increase with these changes, warns San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a Democratic candidate for attorney general. “We know that when you go to prison and come out with no changed circumstances, you are prime to reoffend,” she said. “The first and principal priority should be prevention.”