Crowded Prisons, Unions, and California Three Strikes: Why We Can't Just Build More Cages

"Where other states are investing resources in, 'How do we help these people not come back into the prison system?,' California is not," says Adrian Moore, Vice President of Research at Reason Foundation. 

The United States locks up more prisoners than any other country. And in the country holding the most prisoners in the world, California is the state that incarcerates more people than any other. California's prisons are so overcrowded that the Supreme Court ruled them in violation of the Eighth Amendment's "cruel and unusual punishment" clause. 

Moore and others lay much of the blame at the feet of California's powerful prison guard union, the California Correction Peace Officer's Association (CCPOA), which is unrelenting in its advocacy for tough-on-crime laws, including California Three Strikes, under which any third-time felon can receive a 25-year to life sentence, even if the crime is not a violent, "serious felony (PDF)."

California voters have a chance to reform Three Strikes this year by voting for Prop 36, which would allow Third Strikers convicted of non-serious, nonviolent crimes to appeal for a sentence reduction. More than 3,500 Third Strikers were sentenced for a non-violent, non-serious crime, and of these, more than 1,300 were sentenced for drug-related offenses (PDF). CCPOA, which has donated money to stopping similar reforms in the past, has stayed relatively silent this time around, but another lobbying group, the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) has stepped up with a $100,000 donation to an anti-Prop 36 campaign. 

"We do lobby for stronger laws on the book that we can use to put people away, because these are people that are preying on the citizens of California," says Ron Cottingham, president of PORAC. 

But with prisons overcrowding, recidivism high, and local jails facing troubles of their own, some sort of reform will need to happen, says Moore, though he doesn't expect a viable solution to be offered by the unions any time soon. 

"[The unions] are following their own self-interest," says Moore, "which is to have the prison system in California continue to be large and to grow over time, and they have been very successful at that." 

Approximately 6 minutes.

Written and produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Mark Wagner, Sharif Matar and Weissmueller. Music by Krackatoa and Lee Rosevere.

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  • nicole||

    Threadjack: Sandy is still making Twitter go full retard. Why can't Goldman Sachs just give to the collective, huh? THIS SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT HOW SICK OUR SOCIETY IS.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That's a laugh. Kunzru, the very example of British Indian privilege spewing populist-mob rhetoric like "whose streets"?

    Then again, self-awareness and perspective have never been common qualities among the British upper class.

  • nicole||

    YES!

    I guess it's all good for one thing--making a list of people whose books I will never feel compelled to read.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    In his world, buildings are not allowed to have backup generators installed, I guess?

  • nicole||

    It's okay to install them, but only if you share. Especially with the right people.

  • ||

    The stupidity and ignorance of these people is breathtaking. I mean just incredible. Why is no one ripping them new assholes?

    (Not to be taken as a defense of Goldman in any way, those bailout-taking fucks.)

  • nicole||

    I know, that's the problem--shame it's Goldman.

    Clearly, the Twitter needs you. As a lady I can't handle the certain ostracism.

  • ||

    That, and as we all know, women aren't capable of understanding how electrical grids work. You just go shopping and leave it to me, nicole.

  • nicole||

    Good idea. Because I'm also not capable of understanding how a fucking storm is political right now.

  • ||

    Well, neither am I, nicole. Does that make me a chick?!?

  • nicole||

    I think, oddly, that just makes you "not a douchebag."

  • ||

    It's going to take a lot more than that to make me not a douchebag, nicole.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    As a lady I can't handle the certain ostracism.

    You'll always have a home with us and the rest of the dwarves.

  • nicole||

    Thanks, HM...sniff...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Hey, HM. Everything alright with you and yours? Staying dry?

    Thoughts, prayers, etc.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Thanks, EDG.

    Mysteriously, we're doing well. No power loss, and no flooding. Other places in town have lost power, which usually happens to us...so I'm mystified but thankful.

  • ||

    Is he so stupid that he doesn't understand building generators? I'm really failing to get his point. Does that moron actually think that Goldman is being shunted the only available power or something incandescently stupid like that?

  • nicole||

    Pretty much. I had more this morning.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Does that moron actually think that Goldman is being shunted the only available power or something incandescently stupid like that?

    Most likely.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Actually, I think he does realize it's a backup generator, but he can't resist the opportunity to indulge in a little bit of agitprop...for the greater good, of course.

  • ||

    Even if so, does he think a backup generator can power the fucking grid?!?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    No, most likely he thinks they should turn it off and suffer with the rest of the people. Equality and all.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    He's a post-modernist....to him, facts don't matter!!!!

  • sarcasmic||

    What do you mean they're following their own self interest?

    They work for the state! They have no self interest! Their only interest is that of the People whom they serve! How dare you say they have a self interest? That's heresy!

  • ShagNasty||

    I think every politician that's ever tried to score "Tough on Crime" points by supporting manditory minimum scentences should be thrown out on the yard of a maximum security prison while the guards turn the other way.
    At the federal level, posession of LESS THAN 250mg of methamphetamine is a level 12 offense, which will be scentenced between 10 and 16 years. Meth generally sells for about $100/G in the US. The FedGov thinks they need to lock people in a cage where they're surrounded by dangers psychopaths for 10 or 15 years, over a dimebag of speed. Studies indicate that 47% of inmates in maximum security federal prisons have Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy.)

  • ShagNasty||

    Right now there's someone, probably several hundred someones, rotting in prison, watching child molesters come AND leave, just because of some residue stuck to the inside of a bag.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    You can't tell this on the various Dem sites without a regurg tsunami that ultimately results in zero damage on meself due to a massive deity-like thunderbolt of proof called Look Who Signed the Various Legislaturations- but Dems are huge incarcerationists- easily as apt to throw human brothers and sisters behind angry mesh as their god-lovin', law'n order', thuggaroos in the Republicans.

    Jon buddy with the last name Stewart- you need to fucking STOP the whole 'Well they are sorta kinda largely different'... In the end, Dems and Repubs are equally responsible for fucking up what could have been the world's greatest example of excellence in Open Society building.

  • Dan||

    Yeah because all the systems designed to rehabilitate criminals work so well.

  • ||

    yeah, some criminal rehab programs are a joke. But some are not. There is a reason that Texas and Florida have recidivism levels HALF of California's. They have programs that help many criminals go straight.

  • Lisa||

    non-violent? non-serious? gee, when you put it that way...it sounds like people are getting jailed for baking cupcakes. I mean, unless it's just rhetoric to make crimes like perjury and property damage sound OK. But I'm sure Reason would never allow such a thing.

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    California is not," says Adrian MooreSohbet Siteleri - Chat Siteleri

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    the California Correction Peace Officer's AssociationGüzel Sözler - Şarkı Sözleri

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    the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) has stepped up with a $100,000 donation to an anti-Prop 36 campaign. Sohbet - Chat

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    But with prisons overcrowding, recidivism high, and local jails facing troubles of their own, some sort of reform will need to happen, says Moore, though he doesn't expect a viable solution to be offered by the unions any time soon. Rüya Tabirleri - Yemek Tarifleri

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