Transcript: CA Sen. Mark Leno on the alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding – Aug. 30, 2013

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). IMAGE SOURCE:

Partial transcript of remarks by California Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, on an alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding. The press briefing was held on Aug. 30, 2013: 

…I’m here to fully endorse this proposal. I can say with great certainty – and I’ll substantiate it in just a minute – the solution based only on capacity expansion is no solution at all.

The United States of America has 5% of the world’s population; we have 25% of the world’s inmate population.

So how has California contributed to that over the past 30 years? Our prison population has grown 8 times faster than our general population, and our spending on corrections has grown 4 times faster than our general spending for the state of California. And we’ve seen general fund support for the Department of Corrections double from about 5% to 10%.

So my concern is that the other proposal does not address the core problem here. We have a 70% recidivism rate in California – twice the national average.

So for all of this increase in incarceration, for all of this additional spending of our general fund, it’s gotten us the worst results in the country.

What we found with SB 678 working at the local level to invest in programs to keep low-level offenders successful in their probationary period, we were able to reduce the recidivism rate by half – from 75% to about 35%. That’s what gives us safer communities. If our goal is to reduce crime and keep our neighborhoods safer, we know what works.

Warehousing more and more people for longer periods of time does not keep our communities safer. We return people who are virtually unemployable because 70% are ostensibly functionally illiterate with substance abuse, alcohol abuse problems and mental health issues. Warehousing doesn’t address any of those.

Working with folks in the local communities, give them GED assistance that they may need, help with their remedial reading skills, to give them job training, job placement – that’s what keeps people from re-offending.

And I’d just come back from a White House conference on the impact of children of incarcerated parents. This becomes a generational loop because the more parents we take out of their homes, the more the next generation will fail in their studies, fail in their graduation rates and find their way into our criminal justice system and perpetuate that which we’ve been doing for the past 30 years.

It’s time to do something different. This proposal will do that for California.


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