Transcript: CA Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding – Aug. 30, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on an alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding. The press briefing was held on Aug. 30, 2013:

…I should say right off the bat that our proposal, like the Governor’s, no early release – no early release – and you’ll hear that a few times here this morning.

Why are we here?

For three decades, California has built more and more prison capacity and we are still overcrowded…

My colleagues and I agree with the Governor that early release again is not an option. But there is a far better way than the Governor’s proposal.

Today, on behalf of my Senate Democratic colleagues, I have written a letter to Governor Brown and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Don Specter, in the federal three-judge lawsuit, urging them to strongly settle the overcrowding lawsuit which precipitates the current crisis. That letter will be released publicly immediately.

Again, on behalf of my colleagues, I have spent the last three weeks talking with, probing, and consulting with not only the parties to the lawsuit but many of the experts who know that our failed system must change.

Here are the terms of the settlement that my colleagues and I propose.

Number one: The parties settle the case by Sept. 13, 2013 – our last day of session.

Number two: The plaintiffs would agree to a time extension for the state to meet a cap until Dec. 31, 2016 – three years from the date of the current court order.

Number three: The settlement would include and the legislature will pass a $200 million performance incentive public safety grant program to reduce prison admissions. The grant program will be based on Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 678 of 2009, where counties receive more resources the greater number of people they avoid sending to state prison.

Number four: The settlement would include and the legislature will pass a statute authorizing an 18-member public safety commission – high-level but advisory – to recommend to the Governor and the legislature changes in sentence structures and credit policies to reduce long-term prison overcrowding.

Number five: The state would drop its appeal of the population cap order. The Governor and the plaintiffs would appoint neutral experts to update and determine an appropriate prison population cap for the next three years.

No early releases. Settlement of this ongoing litigation, which is now about a decade old is wise and in the public interest.

Our plan – the Senate Democratic plan – is smart on crime. It is a durable solution. It is a less expensive solution than the Governor’s…

The Senate plan would spend $200 million in year one, $200 million in year two for a total of $400 million.

The Governor’s plan spends $315 million in the first year and $415 million in the second year for a total of $730 million.

Less expensive.

Nothing would prevent this legislature or a future legislature from investing in necessary capacity as it is needed.

And our plan is based on real experience…In 2009, as the result of Sen. Leno’s bill, $45 million invested in evidence-based rehabilitation. As a result, by 2012, 9,600 fewer offenders were returned to state prison. Ironically – and it’s just a coincidence – that is the number – virtually the same number that the three-judge panel says has to be released by Dec. 31, 2013.

The state saved $536 million of which half was returned to the counties to reinvest in these same programs.

What worked once can and will work again.

Members of the media and the public, my colleagues and I have been vociferous in support of the Governor’s strategy to appeal the overcrowding order to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Governor lost that battle.

Today, we urge the plaintiffs and the Governor to sit down together to take this framework and to settle this in a smart and in a tough way.

And the public supports our approach. A recently released poll by David Binder show that clearly. 59% of Californians support evidence-based community programs to reduce repeat offenses. 74% support a public safety commission. 80% support expanded mental health treatment.

Now, how will the Governor and the plaintiffs in this case react to the announcement we are making here today? I will allow them to speak for themselves.

No approach stands scrutiny alone, of course. It must be contrasted with the approach you heard yesterday from the Governor and Speaker Perez and the two Republican leaders.

As I said yesterday, the Governor’s plan contains no hope nor promise. It spends $715 million on building more prison space. By definition, it does nothing to change the nearly 70% revolving door rate that brings people once inevitably released back into state prisons.

The question before us is clear: Do we begin now to slow the revolving door of offense-release-and-re-offense or do we spend precious taxpayer dollars on the same tired proposals which do nothing to close that revolving door?

Fundamentally, by resorting to a $715 million band-aid, the Governor is inadvertently yielding to the federal judges he says he wants to continue to fight.

The Governor said eloquently just 8 months ago at the beginning of session. When asked about the three-judge panel, he said the following: “We can’t pour more and more money down the rat hole of incarceration. We have to spend as much as we need but no more and I think we’ve hit that point.” This is August. What has changed?

The Governor’s argument from January ought to be as good today as it was then. Nothing in his plan reduces the real risk that the prison population will go right back up after we spend all this money to change nothing.

We are drafting legislative language to implement our approach. I have asked Sen. Leno to hold a budget hearing next week to fully analyze both approaches with a strong recommendation to pass the Senate approach to our floor and then to pass it.


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2 Comments on “Transcript: CA Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding – Aug. 30, 2013

  1. Pingback: Transcript: CA Sen. Lou Correa on the alternative proposal to reduce prison overcrowding - Aug. 30, 2013 | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Spotlight: California Prison Capacity Expansion | What The Folly?!

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