Transcript: Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer’s Q&A with LAO analyst Drew Soderborg on the increase in California’s prison population before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment on Oct. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer’s (D-Los Angeles) Q&A with Drew Soderborg, Managing Principal Analyst, Corrections, Transportation, and Environment, at the Legislative Analyst’s Office, on the contributing factors to the increase and decline in California’s prison population. The hearing before the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment was held on Oct. 21, 2013:

Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles):
…Has anyone ever looked at economically – because you didn’t mention how much we’re also spending on the number of prisoners and the increase. And I’m looking at return on investment – ROI. Looking at savings taxpayers money we don’t spend to incarcerate…state-wide public safety costs if we’re able to get people out successfully and not go back to doing crimes. Then that’s lower costs in the local levels for public safety and obviously safety for everyone in the community – property crimes go down, violent crimes go down. And ultimately hopefully these people then are now regular citizens who also start paying state income taxes, start paying property taxes, sale taxes, and we look at that overall as revenues. You have now your expenses, your revenues. And then look at rehabilitation as maybe infusion of cash like we did with bailout of banks, like we do with other entities, as an opportunity to use that as a vehicle to invest and restructure the way we do and how we handle prisons. But ultimately, I guess, for the bottom line being able to create an economic model that says for every dollar you put in for rehabilitation, hopefully you get some kind of return on investment – $5, $10 – back into the local economy, back to the state budget.

…Has anyone really looked at the economics of having a successful prison system?

Drew Soderborg, Managing Principal Analyst, Corrections, Transportation, and Environment, at the Legislative Analyst’s Office:
Yes, there has been work done on that, especially by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. They did an extensive review of the literature around rehabilitation programs as well as an extensive review of their own state’s budget and policies.

And they were able to calculate for dozens of different rehabilitation programs what the return on investment were. There were some that had a very high return on investments such as cognitive behavior therapy and for every dollar invested in the program, they achieved more than a dollar in savings. Some had actually very little or no benefit, and some actually increased state costs. There are some rehabilitation programs for youth that actually made youth more likely to go commit offenses later so those were obviously not cost effective.

And the work done by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy is being taken over or being adapted by the Pew Center for the States, and basically what they’re trying to do is use the methodology and approach taken by the Washington State Institute and applying it elsewhere in other states around the country.

And they’ve actually come to California and are beginning to work in a handful of counties that have requested assistance from Pew to help them model what decisions they’re making and how that impacts county costs. So there’s an extensive body of literature on it and it’s something that quite a bit of work has been done on.

###

Learn More:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.