Behind CA Prison Mess: Determinate Sentencing From the 70s


Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is being disingenuous, at best, in his complaints about the ongoing California inmate shift from state prisons to localities, says Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton. Villaraigosa denounced the state for not providing “a single dollar to help with the burden” of incarcerating and monitoring more criminals. Actually, says Skelton, the state is sending financial help, including $124 million to Los Angeles County. It’s up to the cities to request a share.

Skelton says the prison-overcrowding problem started back when Brown was first governor in the 1970s. He signed a bill that switched California to determinate sentencing, mandating a fixed term for each crime. Before that, sentencing and release were more flexible, depending a lot on the inmate’s behavior behind bars. “Things didn’t prove out the way we expected,” then-Attorney General Brown said two years ago. “If a prisoner knows he’s going to spend a determined amount of time for a crime, it may create a deterrent. But then once in prison, there’s no incentive to do work programs, to improve yourself, no incentive that you can get out earlier. That’s bad. That’s very bad.”

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