California prison officials began touting a new public safety reform in January that would encourage inmates to complete a rehabilitation course and earn six weeks per year off a sentence. Inside Folsom State Prison, though, inmates and instructors leading such courses are skeptical it will work, the Sacramento Bee reports. In reality, they say, budget cuts approved by legislators last year to cope with an unprecedented fiscal crisis are devastating programs that are the basis for the new credit and for helping inmates stay straight once free.
The state corrrections department is slashing $250 million – almost 45 percent – of the $560 million it was to spend on rehabilitation this fiscal year. That means a 30 percent trim in high school equivalency and other literacy and vocational courses – 800 out of 1,500 instructors have been let go – and a 40 percent cut in substance-abuse programs. “I just hope someone up there has a brain and can see what the impact of this will be,” said Folsom State Prison school Principal Jean Bracy. As rehab opportunities dry up, more inmates are expected to go free earlier. Lawmakers, in another cost-saving move, approved allowing certain nonviolent prisoners “day for a day” credits off sentences just for being “discipline-free.”