The Economy is Going to Matter: Prisoners to be Released to Save California Government Money?

July 17, 2009

I must confess, I haven’t been terribly concerned about the economy.  Yes, I have compassion toward those who have lost their jobs, but I consider the moral state of our nation a bit more important than the fiscal.  But now it could get ugly, as explained by the Los Angeles Police Protective League:

The early release of felons from state prison is one of the “strategies” to score budget savings. Our sources inform us that the proposed budget will result in a reduction of $ 1.2 billion in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Although no one in the Legislature has made any of this public, we can safely guess that numbers like this translate into the early release of about 20,000 felons. 

Here are some sobering facts about early releases, based on information from independent research organizations, such as the RAND Institute: 

For every 5,000 felons who receive an early release, 45,500 new crimes will be committed over a three-year period, and 9,000 of those crimes will be violent felonies.  Applied to the 20,000 felons set for release under the budget proposal, this would result in an estimated 182,000 new crimes being committed over the next three years – 35,000 of them violent felonies! 

This relates to the purpose of this blog in that there is a philosophical debate over the purpose of incarceration, which I may post about in the future.  In any event, if one of those purposes is to punish criminals as they deserve, this means the economy will prevent society from so punishing criminals.  Does society have a moral obligation to make sure criminals (especially violent criminals) get what they deserve?  Even if not, criminals certainly won’t be greatly deterred from unlawful behavior in a society that lacks sufficient police (budget cuts will happen there, too) and jail facilities to appropriately deter public harms.

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