California’s Prison System
California’s prison system has faced a number of problems. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that the system is “in crisis.” Why? What is wrong with the prison system? There are a number of challenges that it has faced.
At one point, the best of California’s many state prisons was too overcrowded. It was built for 1,800 inmates; it housed 4,700. It was always on lockdown to stop violence between inmates, even though it needed 75 more guards. The prison was built in the 1920s; its construction was such that when it rained, power had to be shut off so that the prisoners would not be electrocuted. It is shocking to think that this was California’s best state prison.
In the past, California’s prisons were costing its taxpayers around $8 billion per year. Interestingly, though, at one point California’s prison system was the best in the nation. Other states sought to emulate it, and researchers and officials came to study it.
Among its strengths were the “intermediate sentences” it provided, which were actually ranges of prison terms. A convict would be given a range of sentences, such a few years to life. Later, a parole board would judge whether the prisoner had been reformed and then adjust the prison sentence accordingly.