“The ‘stack them up like cordwood’ line comes from Mark Klaas, whose daughter Polly’s brutal murder ushered in the three strikes sentencing law, which is now rarely being used to capture the kind of violent offenders like the ones involved in her crime. 2/3 of all of the inmates at Solano as a result of the three strikes law struck out on a nonviolent offense. And these are precisely the inmates who are clogging the system. Every corrections officer interviewed agreed that tough sentencing laws like three strikes aren’t working. And even Mark Klaas, whose ‘cordwood’ line represented his earlier state of mind, now believes that we’re ‘not going to solve the crime problem by building more prisons.’ Only rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention can truly address this crisis. And here is where the California penal system comes up woefully short.
“While 85% of the population at Solano enters prison with either a prior or current substance abuse problem, only 10% will be able to enter the drug treatment and counseling program; there simply aren’t enough spaces. Only 12% engage in some kind of vocational training, acquiring skills that can potentially be put to good use on the outside. In fact, the best vocational training in California prisons these days is for crime itself. ‘This is a school where you can learn all kinds of crime,’ says one official, accounting for the nation’s highest recidivism rate. And so once their sentences expire, we send these ex-cons off into the world with $200 and a bus ticket, with no skills, no treatment, no job, in many cases no place to live, largely worse off than they were when they entered prison, and we’re surprised when they return?”
Breaking Point: Ted Koppel on the CA Prison Crisis, by: David Dayen, Calitics, October 9, 2007
As a gentleman said in the New Yorker earlier this year: “Years ago, you had to be a criminal to go to jail. Now all you have to be is a fuckup.”
Three Strikes isn’t working. Can we please get rid of it already? California’s prisons are evil and embarrassing. We’re a better State than this, really.