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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 10:36 AM
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Rehabilitation programs can cut prisons cost, report says
http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_6263893?ncli...
Rehabilitation programs can cut prisons cost, report says
By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer
News Fuze
Article Launched:06/29/2007 06:28:21 PM PDT

SACRAMENTOOf the roughly $43,000 California spends annually to house each of its prison inmates, just 5 percent goes toward rehabilitation programs.
That will have to changein a big wayif the state is reduce its inmate population and avoid a federal court takeover of its troubled prison system, according to a report released Friday.

New programs and policies for inmates and ex-cons could eliminate the need for as many as 48,000 prison beds, the report said. The experts who developed the study estimated that could save California taxpayers $561 million to $684 million per yearabout 5 percent of the total amount proposed for next year's corrections budget.

More money spent on education, job training, drug treatment, anger management and other programs would lead to less money needed for incarceration because fewer paroled inmates would get in trouble again and return to prison, the report said.

The study was requested by state Sen. Mike Machado as a part of his oversight of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget through a Senate subcommittee. He called the recommendations, compiled by a panel of 17 national experts, "sound principles for managing our prisons."

The report comes at a time when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers are trying to avoid a federal takeover of the overcrowded prison system, which is about 70 percent over capacity.

They have approved a $7.8 billion building program that will add prison and county jail beds, as well as space for mentally ill inmates and those needing health care services.

The panelists said a significant boost in rehabilitation funding could be enough to deter draconian steps being considered by federal judges who have oversight of some prison operations. Those judges are considering steps that could lead to the early release of inmates or a capping of the prison population.

Just $2,053 of the $43,287 California spends to house an inmate is for rehabilitation or training. Such programs are crucial if inmates are to avoid a return visit, the study said.

"Half of all prisoners being released (in 2006) had sat idle during their entire prison stay," without participating in a single rehabilitation program, said Joan Petersilia, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and co-chair of the panel.

The report said the state should spend between $628 million and $652 million a year on new rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees, expenses that would be offset by the savings from having fewer inmates in the system. In addition, the $300 million now going toward such programs could be spent more effectively, according to the experts.

California prisons also offer few incentives for inmates to improve themselves, the report said.

The panelists urged lawmakers to imitate efforts in Pennsylvania, Washington and Ohio in offering shorter sentences or minimal pay to inmates who complete rehabilitation programs.

California inmates, for example, get paid for sweeping their cellblock but earn nothing for attending classes, said panel member Joseph Lehman, who formerly headed corrections departments in Washington, Maine and Pennsylvania.

In response to the report, Corrections Secretary James Tilton ruled out reducing inmates' sentences and releasing them early as an incentive for completing various programs.

But he did embrace lesser incentives, such as increased visitation rights, long-distance telephone calls or vouchers inmates can use to purchase goods.

He also said the state needs to take other steps, such as finding community treatment programs for parole violators who now are sent back to prison for a few months.

"They test dirty for drugs, put them in a drug treatment program" instead of a prison cell, he said.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, also was skeptical of early release incentives. He said most inmates already are released after serving half their sentences, even if they don't participate in rehabilitation programs. "We are already way too generous with incentives," said Spitzer, chairman of the Select Committee on Prison Construction and Operations.



On the Net:

Read the report at http://www.corr.ca.gov /

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