February 10th, 2009
02:11 PM ET

Releasing prison inmates to save tax dollars?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A California court says the state has to reduce its prison population by as many as 57,000 inmates within three years. That's more than one-third of the nation's largest prison population.

Releasing prison inmates to save tax dollars?

California prisons house nearly 173,000 inmates.

The panel of three judges ruled the state could do this by shortening sentences, limiting new admissions, sending nonviolent felons to county programs, reforming parole and giving early releases for good behavior. They say these options would not harm public safety. Not sure how they came to that conclusion, but anyway.

By keeping the system at more than 150,000 - which is double capacity - the panel says inmates are not receiving a level of medical and mental health care that's guaranteed by the Constitution.

California's attorney general is already vowing to appeal the ruling, saying it goes against public safety and that they will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the panel of judges cites Governor Schwarzenegger's support for prison reforms. He has said this would reduce the prison population by about 40,000 inmates.

Perhaps more importantly, state budgets around the country are strapped for cash in these tough economic times and the court says California would save between $800 and $900 million a year by doing this. They say some of that money could go to local groups that would work with inmates put on parole or probation.

Here’s my question to you: Should state prison inmates be released as a way of saving taxpayer dollars?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Dave from Brooklyn writes:
This is a joke, right? Is there some maximum IQ standard that you must not exceed – like 12 – to be a judge? Instead of letting felons loose on the population, why not hire a few of the unemployed honest people out here to build more prisons. Sounds shovel-ready to me.

Susan from Medford, Oregon writes:
No other country in the world has the rates of incarcerations that the U.S. does. Three strikes in California have led to life sentences for shoplifting. The state of California is bankrupt. Do you want to tell me this system is working?

Rose from Arizona writes:
Releasing prisoners to save tax dollars is absurd. What will these people do when they get out and can't find a job? I would bet they would repeat their crimes and put the taxpayers at risk. How stupid is that?

Stacy from Leesburg, Virginia writes:
Jack, Are you kidding me? Maybe I am a practical person here and I see a ready-made workforce ready to go for some of the grunt work to rebuild this country. Instead of paying higher priced contractors for some of this work, why not get non-violent offenders off their collective rump? In exchange for a shorter sentence, they work and get some job skills and everybody wins.

Ralph from Blackduck, Minnesota writes:
Hi Jack. Yes, I believe some of those inmates should be released. I know several people who have been in prison, mostly for drug offenses. These aren't bad people, but people who have made some poor decisions. Sticking them in an overcrowded facility will do them more harm than good and cost us taxpayers a fortune in the process.

David writes:
Jack, I live in California and have family members in prison. I think this is the worst ruling in the history jurisprudence.

A. from California writes:
Release them where the judges live.

Filed under: Crime and Punishment • US Prisons
soundoff (176 Responses)
  1. Tina

    They should let out the ones who were arrested for small amounts of dope and send their behinds to rehab and let out the ones for petty crimes. I would make them break rocks in the hot sun and maybe next time they would not come back.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Kevin in Dallas, TX

    Oh ya, that's a great idea. Lets save tax dollars by releasing prisoners so that we can spend those tax dollars on police to arrest them after they steal my car.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  3. Laurie in Lawrence, KS

    Absolutely not! If our prison system actually rehabilitated people so they could function on the outside, then it is worth a review. Unfortunately, our prison system only makes a mean person meaner, and really bad person a monster. Once can only imagine the castrophe this would be.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  4. Tony from Torrington

    Only if they are not convicted of felony crimes. If they are felons and have commited murder, execution would solve some of the expense. If not. let them go. Next time they commit a crime, send them to Alcatraz to be kept with the prisoners from Gitmo. Problem solved and dollars saved.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  5. Rose in Az

    Releasing prisoners to save tax dollars is absurd. What will these people do when they get out, they can't find a job, there are no jobs, I would bet they would repeat their crimes and put the taxpayers at risk.
    How stupid is that??

    February 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  6. Katty OR

    Jack, why is it when money is tight the programs they threaten to cut are always the ones that will hurt society the most and never the ridiculous and unneeded ones?

    February 10, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Dave, Brooklyn, NY

    This is a joke right? Is there some maximum IQ standard that you must not exceed – like 12 – to be a judge? Instead of letting felons loose on the population, why not hire a few of the unemployed honest people out here to build more prisons. Sounds shovel ready to me.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  8. Paul P.

    Lets release them, Taxpayers dont know know where their money goes in the first place. Their road maintenance skills are needed on our highways and towns.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Paul Austin,Texas

    Jack at first it sounds like a good idea. But NO we should not release them because it is sad to say but in the past "we" the prision system and Judges release the wrong ones!

    February 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  10. Judy, Exeter, Calif,

    The release is supposed to be the elderly or those who have committed non-violent crimes. Keeping prisoners is expensive, but so are arrests and trials. The entire system needs a close look, and all waste should be cut before any prisoner releases. This is wrong on so many levels.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  11. AndyZag Lynn, MA

    Ok, I thought I had heard the most outrages ideas already but this one tops them all. California wants to release convicted felons because it doesn't have enough bed space. Hell, follow the Navy. Let them hot bunk. Let them pay for their criimes!

    February 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  12. Ann from Atlanta, TX

    No! The prison system should follow the example of the prison where inmates are housed in tents. They have no AC, heat, T.V, or recreactional rooms. They get their exercise by working. This would save lots of money.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm |
  13. Anonymous, Charlotte, NC

    This only confirms that California is the land of fruits & nuts. Glad I don't live there.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  14. Meg from Troy, Ohio

    This ruling makes me wonder how many of these prisoners perhaps shouldn't have been sentenced to prison to begin with. To release them to save money to me would be a secondary goal. They should be released if there is something wrong with their conviction or if sentencing procedures weren't followed. It would make more sense to begin reviewing the cases, and releasing those who shouldn't be there. Saving money would just be a benefit of doing the right thing.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  15. Joe in MO

    Maybe if we decriminalized certain kinds of drug use, we wouldn't need to be doing all this early release stuff.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  16. Mike in St. Pete Beach, Florida

    End the ridiculous war on drugs and the situation will resolve itself. Addiction is the only disease punishable by law.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  17. Jane (Minnesota)

    If they are not a threat to the public why not? Especially if it saves the tax payers to parole them instead of jailing them.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Dolmar, Colorado Springs

    I don't see where there are any net savings from emptying out the jails. These folks were put in jail because society was sick of paying for the damage caused by their crimes. If they are let out, taxpayers will still be paying for unemployement, welfare, and medicaid, as well as additional police to keep track of them. And who is going to produce all the license plates?

    February 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  19. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    These judges are insane. How can they say that the state will save $800-900 million when the cost of setting them free will cost so much more. When there is so many jobs being lost how are these criminals going to support themselves? They are going to go back to crime to feed themselves. I guess in these times the public should not expect government to keep us relatively safe in our own homes.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm |

    Length of sentence has always been an arbitrary number, so its hard to prove the value of a 15 year sentence against a ten year sentence. Nor are our prisons effective rehab facilities for criminal behavior, so there is no way to tell when a prisoner has "served enough".That being said, it is hard to imagine a good outcome from releasing prisoners into a society with a growing jobless rate. Without jobs, it seems likely that crime might be an attractive alternative for someone who already has some expertise in that area.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  21. Andrew, Los Angeles

    It's a terrific idea. Not only will the reduction in inmates save taxpayer money, it will also stimulate the economy. When people wake up to find their cars stolen, then they'll have to buy new ones. Plus with more criminals on the street, we'll see job creation in the the home security sector. All in all, the weakened California economy comes out ahead.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  22. Rod from Allentown PA

    They should adopt the buddy release program. The Governator and Nancy Pelosi should be the first. The released inmates can live with them and other politicians thinking this will save money for the taxpayers. Better yet, they can create a half way house in their neighborhoods.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  23. Chad Jarman--Los Angeles

    Can they just transfer them to Gitmo?

    February 10, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  24. Melissa

    There is a serious problem with the Constitution if inmates in prison receive better health care than the common populace.

    Frankly, in the interest of public safety, these people need to stay in prison.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  25. Frank from Peterborough

    According to your own TV documentaries the U.S. has the highest rate of crimianl convictions with the longest and harshest jail sentences.

    An excellent example of this would be the black youth recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sex with a girl a year younger than him or the two border guards sentenced to 12 years in prison for shooting a drug smuggler.

    If you can believe these documentaries then probably you could release 50% of prisoners country wide and save enough to stimulate all their economies with no detrimental affect on society.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  26. Jamie

    If PRISON was what it should be, it wouldn't be overcrowed because people would be to scared to break the law. Prison should be HARSH ! Especially for violent offenders. They should pull their whole sentence. Prisoners should not have the same rights as citizens, because they DID NOT obey the same laws as normal citizens.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  27. Jerry from Monroe Co., WV

    If they haven't harmed, defrauded, or robbed anyone, we could send them home with bracelets- sort of like we did Madov.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  28. Stanley Abiri Little Rock, AR

    Simply put Jack, that would be penny wise but pound foolish. Or if you will, 'cent wise but dollar foolish'. I need say no more on this.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  29. Casey | Sebastopol, CA

    Maybe if the Federal government and state governments did away with the criminalization of pot, the prisons would be less crowded. I'm okay with them releasing every single person convicted of pot possession... that should eliminate some crowding AND reduce the food budget!

    Not to mention that if they did, the feds could simply legalize it, control it, tax it and help out the budget with income and new jobs!

    February 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  30. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    If you believe in our justice system, then you believe those people are in prison for very valid reasons and they are a danger to the community. Releasing them early as a cost saving measure is not a responsible action. The first person to be victimized by one of these early releases will undoubtedly sue the socks off the state for putting them in harms way.

    February 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  31. Pugas-AZ

    Don't release too many prisioners. This would result in layoffs in the penal system. This is one of the largest "industries" in the country. We don't want to have to bail out these thriving businesses. I'm sure Nancy and Harry can come up with a good solution-if they can get it past the Republicans. What a country.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  32. jack frost

    In one simple word, NO.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  33. Jeff in Minnesota

    Times are tough all over. And while I understand we need to provide humane conditions for prisoners, I have a hard time justifying why they should have an easy time of it when law abiding people are struggling. They broke the law, they need to suck it up just like the rest of us and maybe they need some more roommates.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  34. Conor in Chicago

    All drugs should be made legal in order to save taxpayer dollars. What's the percentage of our prison population that is in for minor drug offenses? Oh, I forgot, we are suppose to be the "shining city on a hill" where common sense must yield to tyrannical puritan ideals about what's right and wrong.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  35. Steve of Hohenwald TN.

    If our legal system would stop harvesting poor people on trumpt up charges, or petty laws they can`t afford to fight, our prisons wouldn`t be filled beyond capacity. I by no means wan`t to let dangerous crimminals out of prison, but at the same time i do not beleive that otherwise law abiding citizens that like to smoke a joint once in a while belong in prison with dangerous crimminals.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  36. Charlie in Belen, New Mexico

    Sure.. BUT release them to the homes and neighborhoods of the judges who feel that it's safe to release them as a way of saving money...

    February 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  37. Jay in Texas

    Many of those people, who will be released from prison, should never have been there to begin with. They are non-violent offenders who are there most likely because of a disease like alcoholism or addiction. They need medically-supervised treatment – not incarceration with violent criminals. I would bet that most of these inmates were not given adequate legal representation either since the huge majority of those in prison are poor. So, the answer is yes, they should be released as a way of saving taxpayer dollars.
    Brownwood, Texas

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  38. Paul

    We don't have the luxury of subsidizing elaborate prison industries that seems to generate more criminals than reforming any. California is facing economic reality in turning off the spigot to a bloated, corrupt, self perpetuating behemoth like its prison industry.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  39. David

    I live in California and have family members in prison I think this is the worst ruling in the history jurisprudence.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  40. vern-t anaheim,ca

    i live in california and this is another stupid idea of our liberal court system.i don't believe that any of the prisoners currently in california should be released early,this is more than ridiculous and goes aganist concern for public safety ,i don't think the majority of california residents would approve of a idea of this nature

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  41. Liz in Towson, MD

    Maybe if they stopped buying HDTVs for the inmates and pampering them in every way possible, they could afford to keep criminals where they belong: off the streets.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  42. Ralph, Corpus Christi

    Sure, if they are nonviolent offenders, afterall, if we're trying to save tax payer dollars we've already overlooked the non violent , non taxpaying folks in Washington. What's the difference?
    Ralph-Corpus Christi, Texas

    February 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  43. ed (centralia, wa.)

    Why not Jack, How about include the federal prisons as well. Also let's lay off all of the boarder patrol guards and while we are at it let's schrink our military. Makes me wonder where these clowns come from!!!!!!!!!!! Ed Centralia , wa.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  44. Sue -Idaho

    Jack I would say that those inmates who have been charged with say marajuana charges should be released, otherwise it would depend on the crime. Certainly no murderers, bank robbers etc. Unless Ca. wants to invest in a whole lot of tents?

    February 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  45. Paul from Parry Sound, Ontario

    Let out the marijuana users. They're harmless.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  46. Independent for Obama

    Release anyone in prison for drug use only....but anyone who has commited a violent crime should serve every single day they are sentenced to .
    Janie, Springfield MA

    February 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  47. Joan, Orange County

    Yes, release all inmates in prison for non-violent, minor drug charges and increase community based drug rehab out-patient programs. Addiction is a disease, not a crime!
    Deport all inmates who are not U.S. citizens. Why are people here illegally who commit crimes kept in jail for months or years, and then deported. Seems illogical!

    February 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  48. Susan from Greenfield, Wi.

    That's not it. The prisons are at double capacity, that is very dangerous and it's an understatement. My husband and I work in Wisconsin's largest penal institution, and we have been through an inmate uprising. Jack, you don't want to know what that is like, and if you think that thousands of inmates cannot over power a hundred staff, you had better think again. They will bust out of that prison.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  49. Alan-Buxton, Maine

    Considering the vast number of prisoners who are there for non-crimes such as smoking pot that would be a good idea. When there is no money to keep them in prison there is little choice. Our bogus justice system needs to be completely revised to keep the bad guys in and the good guys out in the first place.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  50. Kirk, MN

    Should the wolves be released on the chickens, Jack?

    February 10, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  51. Sandy in Arkansas

    No! Why not make our prisoners earn their keep. Put our prisoners to work and let their salaries pay their room and board. Give tax incentives to businesses to place industry into the prisons. The prisoners salaries could not only pay their room and board, but pay their child support and help get families left at home off of food stamps and other government programs. I truly believe that the old saying, "you did the crime now do the time." should be followed. If they were out in society they should be working so require them to work in prison. Maybe, if that were done some of them wouldn't keep coming back again and again.

    February 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  52. Jeff in E. Lyme, CT

    Yes Jack, we should release non-violent convicts. Especially those who are there only because a corrupt judicial system wanted to keep up their Win/Loss percentage. That number is much higher than you might think.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  53. karen

    Absolutely Not.
    Release the inmates to what? Unemployment? Crime? Social programs? In case they've been under a rock, there's not a lot of jobs out there. Where will they go? Where will they live? It's hard enough for law abiding citizens to make a living in these economic times. I want my tax dollars keeping them in prison, not in society.

    Rochester, NY

    February 10, 2009 at 4:06 pm |
  54. Dennis L. Page

    If convicts are released from prison because of monetary issues, then can someone please tell me why we are going to need a police force. My God, this country is going to hell in a handbasket.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  55. Zac

    We did it to ourselves with the other failed war – the war on drugs. Thousands are in jail across the country for minor drug offenses costing millions if not billions of tax dollars. De-criminalizing drugs will take the profit out of the drug trade and save law enforcement dollars for real crimes.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  56. Ken Kohlmann MI

    Why not, the crooks in DC are on the loose?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  57. Adam Mercer, Ontario

    Jack, this does explain how Lindsay Lohan managed to spend a grand total of 48 minutes of time for her last DUI.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  58. Chandra, LAX

    So it is safe to be in a jail, we get free medical care! Wow what a concept, break the law to get medical and mental health care for free!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  59. Michael

    The answer is a simple, build more prisons. Create construction jobs, well paying positions as guards, and keep our streets clean. its a win win.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  60. Richard Miller

    No they should not. I listened to your story Jack....I heard your tone of voice relating to "Judges deciding in the favor of the inmates when it comes to healthcare". Do not blame the judges for upholding what is in our constitution....that is their job.
    Blame the congress for not giving healthcare to everyone else in the country...then judges could uphold that law.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  61. DB

    Keep the violent offenders behind bars, and take the best and brightest of the non-violent offenders and use them to replace the state's judges.

    DB, New York, NY

    February 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  62. Darryl Price

    In a word. YES. Not everyone in prison is a violent offender. For tax payers to be footing the 40,000 a year to house people who have shown no propensity to harm residents while cutting budgets for school districts is absolute madness!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  63. SteeKhan

    Either the Police are ultra efficient or the the courts are extra strict about the sentencing of the felons. Maybe we should rethink the whole idea about prisons because clearly it doesn't work and crime keeps rising.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  64. Carol

    You said it perfectly, Jack: "The answer is, 'NO!'

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  65. Batoul in Houston, TX

    Um, how about no? Who voted for these people? Releasing prisoners is the worst idea I have ever heard to save money.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  66. Ian in Springfield, VA

    First why ask a question when you already answer yourself, but at least you're honest.

    Prisons are overcrowded and studies have shown that for non-violent crime, reform is the answer, not imprisonment. No doubt that people should serve time for their transgressions against others, but simply putting a person behind bars for x-amount of time does not mean they are either sorry, or they would not do it again if they had the opportunity.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  67. Kenny

    One way to cut back on prisoner expenses is to reform marijuana policy...over 80,000 people are in jail right now for simple possession of something that is safer for your body than both alcohol and tobacco!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  68. Lonnie Scott

    Yes Jack it is ok to release prisoners that are in for non-violent offenses. This is not just an issue in California. Sometimes being "tough on crime", usually when it's a republican leading the way is actually just being plain dumb on crime. Check the stats, length of stay has no effect on recidivism rates. Preventing prison, shorter stays etc. do have a positive effect. Enough with the lock'em up and throw away the key approach...just like here in MI if we dont find real reforms we will never get prison spending under control.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  69. Ian from Los Angeles

    I believe, under some circumstances, that prisoners should be released if, and only if, they have a small record and are non violent crimes.
    Tax payers are paying for shelters and food for inmates, who in some cases, live in "camps" where some of us wouldnt mind living in under this economic downfall.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  70. Lindsay Hammonds; Houston, TX

    What a perfect plan! Putting criminals on the street is the easiest stimulus. ......

    Stimulates all of the other Californians right out of the state.

    You've got to be kidding me? What idiot came up with this? There's got to be a better way of saving money.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  71. Tom D.

    Yes! Release them.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  72. Luke D.

    Hi Jack,
    Violent offenders absolutely should NOT be released. However, the sentencing guidelines for drug offenders should be modified. Your point about the millions of uninsured law abiding Americans hit the nail on the head. Not to mention the suffering state of CA schools. Why are we so concerned about the men and women who terrorize their own communities? It makes no sense.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  73. Meg

    A... This isn't just "time out" we shouldn't be rewarding inmates.. B.. Should California expect anything less when they nominated a Governor that can bench press more than his political knowledge?? C..Inmates not receiving mental and health care?? People..this is a prison, not a country club!!!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  74. splashy

    The "drug war" should be stopped immediately, and all those that were only arrested because of possession or dealing without any firearms or violence involved released now. That would get rid of about half of the inmates right there. Stopping the "drug war" would make all our lives better, and would make more people that actually need help with their drug use get assistance to control it.

    Of course, the violent ones are another story.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  75. Liz in Los Angeles, CA

    Oh, swell. Move up, crime rate. Why not just use some bailout bucks to build some new prisons - hey maybe the inmates could be the construction workers.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  76. Jeff, Marietta, GA


    I want to say it costs almost $40,000 a year for California to house inmates. Feed them, give them a place to play basketball, a place to read books, workout, socialize with other criminals. $40,000 per person, and all they do is sit around. I could sit around for $12,000 a year. Why does it cost so much to house a prisoner, who waived their rights to enjoy any kind of freedom whatsoever by committing a crime. Appalling.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  77. Jamie

    Jack, this country imprisons more people not only per capita but also in raw number than China does. And the prison system doesn't work, it only encourages and teaches criminals to commit more crime. All states need to reduce their prison populations drastically, and need to follow-up with former inmates to make sure they are not falling into the same patterns of crime by giving them something worthwhile to do in the real world, instead of just handing them a few dollars and dropping them back into the community which caused them problems in the first place and expecting that they won't turn back to crime when in such a desperate situation. This country thinks entirely wrongly about crime and punishment, and that's why we have so many problems with it, and these problems won't be fixed until we can be more civilized and not focus purely on punishment.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  78. Roland (St George, UT)

    Am I to understand that convicted criminals are supposedly "guaranteed" a certain level of quality medical care by the Constitution, yet the hard-working, law-abiding taxpayers paying for said care for those criminals are getting denied access to medical care and/or losing everything in bankruptcy on account of medical bills...because they can't get medical insurance? There is really something wrong.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  79. Steve Hochman

    I'm all for the early release program, as long as the judges, responsible for this lame brained decision, will now be accountable for all crimes commited by those released, No problem.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  80. Chandra, LAX

    why dont we out source these prisoners? We out source everything else!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  81. T. Santana

    Instead of releasing inmates into society to add even more strain to our economy and drive unemployment rates up, why doesn't California start by having its top government officials, including Arnold, take a pay cut. Furthermore, why don't we use prison labor more effectively across the country to get the economy going. What better way could inmates pay back their debt to society than to help us get out of this economic mess?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  82. Greg

    No, Jack. Last I checked, the US constitution does not call for more than humane treatment. No medical care should be given beyond the that recieved by the average citizen. Last I checked we have several unpopulated islands in the Aleutians where the cost of incarceration would be vasly cheaper. Or wr could contract the Russians to reopen the Gulag

    February 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  83. Gene

    The only way I would let this happen, is if the prisoners would not be aloud to leave the state of California. I got it Jack, build a fence around the state, and keep their good behavoir boys right there.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  84. Karen C in California

    The only adults in America who have a guarantee of adequate medical treatment are prisoners. I've known unemployed people on the verge of homelessness who've considered committing a crime so they could sleep in a jail bed instead of in the street, and get 3 meals a day (which they weren't getting at home).

    At one point, a suggestion was made to relieve prison overcrowding by moving some of them to surplus Navy ships. Except that the rooms deemed adequate for our sailors were "too small" for prisoners' legal rights!

    WHY are prisoners treated better than the people who pay the taxes to support them?

    I think Sheriff Joe Arpaio should be in charge of every jail in the country.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  85. Emma

    I think we should start thinking about trying a military enlistment process for these prisoners. Releasing them can only cause more problems, especially when you are releasing them into our current economy. Our military is strectched very thin, and we could use more soldiers. We are in desperate times, which calls for desperate measures.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  86. Michael Vevera


    Don't be so obtuse. The size of the prison population in the United States is appalling. Money spent on education and social services (read health (mental and physical) care, community service projects, etc.) is money saved in the long run and also provides jobs. Putting people away so that they are not heard or seen is not a viable solution.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  87. John Metz (Midlothian, VA)

    Hey, if we can have a program for rewarding bad behavior in the financial markets, why not in penal institutions? After all they aren't paying any debts or taxes either. Maybe we could let those released manage the so called bad banks and give them a shot at collecting all those bad debts.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  88. dennis james

    The California 3 strikes law has bloated the prison system and is bankrupting the state government. Plus, many are there for non violent drugs crimes. It only makes sense to clear up this mess to save the state millions of dollars without letting violent offenders out on the street.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  89. Natalie Ohio

    In the words of a very wise prophet of the Bible: America has sown to the wind and has reaped a whirlwind.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  90. Ken in TN

    What ever happened to when inmates actually performed manual labor, providing needed labor and PAYING BACK their debt to society? It may never cause a prison to turn a profit, but is would go a long way in reducing the cost to jail them in the first place.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  91. Laird Bagnall

    Yes....... for minor drug cases. When drug companies push a culture of use and abuse onto consumers with outsized advertising, it instills in our youth a tolerance for a drug culture. Locking people up for drug addictions is not the way to treat a cultural problem. Treat the addicted and you will reduce the prison population, one of the highest per capita in the world.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  92. Carol Horn

    Hmmm....nope! No early release, no additional health care,,,nada. How did we get in this mess? I'll never forget the hubris of W in 2001 when he announced sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy. For the past eight years – excluding all the other blunders and stupidity – our market has seen the effects of (mostly) middle aged ,white, wealthy men and their "market rules" mantra. Let them take care of the criminials!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  93. Gary of Wildwood, NJ

    After working over 30 years in the prison system, my suggestion is to take all non violent inmates and put them on house arrest and put a ankle braclet on them and charge them a daily rate for these bracklets this would help pay for their stupid mistakes and there would be no threat to the population. This would also give jobs to people to monitor these people.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  94. Mark

    if you let them out now they will just enter a job maket with no available jobs....so they well just file for unemployment. so is it cheaper to leave them in? or let them out? do the math get back to me on that!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  95. Katherine California

    If they remove all the inmates caught cultivating or selling Marijuana then there will be little danger to this society. If they let dangerous criminals, molesters or gang members out then they are fooling themselves if they think they are going to save money with this move. The cost is going to sky rocket due to the further damage these criminals will do.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  96. Brent Duncan

    Realize that the non violent inmates they are talking about might be DWI offenders, Marijuana possession offenders and others. And about the health care. You can be assured that at least in the free world, one can go to a drugstore and buy over the counter medication or get diabetic supplies from a non profit group. Should a person serving two years for fraud come out of prison in a wreck of poor health that takes years to recover? A prison sentence should not be a torture chamber or an early death sentence.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  97. Jacob

    I believe the California court system creates more criminals than the actual harmful criminals in which we put behind bars. If they are not convicted of a major felony crime (murder, etc), then I support it.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  98. Mom

    I don't live in California, but I have in the past. I currently have a son in the prison system in the state of Wisconsin. We also have an overcrowding problem. My son was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his first DUI in which he fell asleep or blacked out and regretably killed a beautiful 21 year old young woman with her whole life ahead of her. He is a college graduate, who was doing well for himself, he had a good job, his own home and because of getting a judge that's hard on DUI's he was sentenced much longer than most. The average is 3-5 years and I've seen many less since this has happened. Just like my son there are many people that have learned their lesson, have made choices to make a difference in thier lives that have been put in our prison system that don't belong there. I think the parole boards should be brought back to the state of WI and the Truth in Sentencing law should be abolished and keep our prisons for people that are a threat to society of which my son definitely is not.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  99. joe

    Am I the only one who thinks one in every hundred people in jail is too much? Is that Freedom? I believe its us failing as a society. I believe many more need help not jail.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  100. Diangel

    Let them go. First is the fact that there are many innocent people in prison. Secondly is that many of the prisoners are serving sentences that are already much too long due to minimum sentencing requirements. Finally, a large number of convicts are incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Society will not be more dangerous if these people are set free. Let them go and put more money into schools, health care, etc.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  101. Jess

    How about the state stops raiding medical marijuana patients and dispensaries? How much money would that save? Millions!! This is a prime example of where states can save money, stop raiding and prosecuting sick people and turning their lives upsidedown. This involves an enormous amount of state resources (investigation/enforcement/court/corrections/etc) and is an extreme and needless cost to taxpayers.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  102. dfortruth

    Yes Jack, but only if they agree to serve the remaining time on their sentence in boot camp, joining the military.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  103. Cheryl Rust

    No Jack,

    We did this in Texas in the 1990s. Many were rearrested after a short time after their release. With the cost of their rearrest, rejailing, public defenders, court costs and new prison sentences NOT to mention the emtional and monetary toll on their victims, I don't believe any money was saved.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  104. Claude Worthington

    I said a resounding no...

    The inmates were put there for a reason
    and to just release them to save taxpayer's
    money is not good enough...

    Public Safety should be priority number one!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  105. paul

    Not all criminals are dangerous and have outstanding record; therefore, why not release them. If you ever been to prison (as a visitor) you will come away with a different attitude about over crowding and what medical care should be given. I don't understand this attitude that providing medical care is the wrong thing to do. Universal health care produces a different attitude that care is the main value we should embrace, and this assumption that those in prison are somehow all dangerous. I don't think the state will release the most dangerous criminals. Need to understand that 3 strikes put some petty criminal behind bars, because California doesn't have a very good program to teach and prepare some criminal to return to society.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  106. John

    Jack, This sounds good in theory but with unemployment at it's highest where are these people going to find work on the outside?
    They will have no choice but to continue with a life of crime through desperation.
    Someone has'nt thought this through.

    John, Maine

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  107. A.Hawk

    Yes. The prisons are way over full with small time drug users and non-violent offenders who can pay thier own way in programs that have been proven to rehabilitate. These people can be productive members of society instead of sponges for wasted tax dollars.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  108. Renee Nashville, TN

    There is a silver lining in all that is bad. Atleast now the system will acctually have to help these people instead of throwing people in jail (usually because of poverty and petty crimes). Now we don't have a choice! We have to do the right thing and address their individual problems.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  109. Derek, Tucson AZ

    Reduce the prison population? Two words, Jack: Legalize it!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  110. Mary Ann Mancini

    Release some inmates for sure..the WOMEN who are in jail for offing abusive husbands after years of torture from them.. they do more time than rapists and gang bangers who are put in jail only after not being caught for numerous other offenses..statistically these women will not reoffend and their families need them.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  111. Josh

    No I do not think that the prisoners should be released. How will they save money by releasing criminals who are prone to commit more crimes and return to prison?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  112. Del Martin

    I know this is a radical proposal, but I believe prisons should be farms or businesses( like they used to be), and the inmates laborers for said business. Since most people in prison are there because they were too lazy to work like everyone else, why not a "no workee, no eatee" policy. Same goes for Doctor bills. A lot of hard working Americans have to make those choices every day, why should convicts get a free ride?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  113. Steve Boisvert

    The rise of incarcerations and explosion of private prisons has created a "prison/industrial complex". Three strikes and increased mandatory sentencing type laws have placed non violent people in jail and thrown away the key.

    I wouldn't hurt for every state to do a comprehensive evaluation of who is in prison and which prisoners can receive alternatives to incarceration which is extremely expensive. Many non violent prisoners could be released into alternative programs after being reviewed by parole boards without endangering the public

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  114. Jackie in Marietta, GA

    Perhaps they should use inmates of lesser charges, such as drug possession, for some of the infrastructure improvements. That's a way of saving money and getting things done. I'm sure they can dig some ditches or haul bricks to build or rebuild schools and such. Plus they would learn work that would be useful to them when they leave the prison system. Also they should include a strengent rehab program on top of that. As for felons, I say reopen alcatraz, put'em on an island and call it a day.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  115. Dennis, Columbus, Ohio

    Only if they use the Governers Mansion as a shared half-way house with the Arnold.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  116. Jim/NC

    The thought of releasing prisoners to save money is almost like we are living on another planet...unless, you reside in California. This state is not only financially bankrupt, but morally, ethically and spiritually bankrupt. Some of the things that go on in California are perplexing. How does any solid citizen stand to live under the conditions that promote such nonsense. Send the prisoners to Arizona and let the tough sheriff handle them.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  117. Chris

    This is an excellent start to prison reform, which is so obviously necessary in this country. Prisoners that have been arrested for non-violent crimes, such as those arrested for marijuana or smaller amounts of hard drugs, deserve a chance at redeeming themselves outside of prison. Prison is such an ugly place, especially in California, it would be wrong not to give these people a second chance in programs that are designed to educate and bring them into the world as usefull citizens. Sorry Cafferty, but the answer is clearly YES to this one...

    February 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  118. Carol

    Like you said, there are millions of hard-working Americans with no health insurance not to mention the thousands of workers getting laid off each week. Hmm.... what do you think the prisoners who are let out are going to do when they can't find jobs?? They'll be right back into the court system costing even more taxpayer $$. Instead, why doesn't California keep showing how miserable it is in prison: that might make a few wanna-be thieves/thugs think twice about going there. That might save a few bucks.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  119. Deen

    Jack, you're asking the wrong question. You should be asking why are there so many people going to jail? In Alabama, they've made misdemeanors into felonies, and the taxpayer is getting stuck with a bill for bumper sticker justice. I live next to a prison in Alabama on rural property I've owned for 25 years, and I believe there are people who should be locked up forever. But, there are people who are in jail who shouldn't be there, and no one is talking about that.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  120. sally from Canada

    How many of them are illegal immigrants? send them home first, to their 'home' country.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  121. Aric, California

    Maybe we should use the stimulus plan to build more prisons, that should relieve the overcrowding and create jobs at the same time. Lets put those tax dollars to work!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  122. Ken in NC

    What tax dollars are there to save? California is as broke as the USA.

    Besides, the prison system could always release them to the "Schwarzenegger Half Way House".

    February 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  123. saundra roath

    At least 50% of prisoners should not be locked up any way.
    What harm is it to others if drug addicts want to fry their own brain.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  124. Stephanie Clarke

    Prison doesn't rehabilitate– all you need to do is look at the recidivism rate to know that. Putting more emphasis on outreach programs that help non-violent ex-cons is significantly cheaper and a better way to go. They need education, counseling and training to become better citizens. Keeping those we can still reach locked up with worse criminals won't make them more civilized.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  125. Carol, Lakeland, FL

    Dear Jack,

    I am the mother of an inmate who has a life without the possibility of parole sentence in the State of Florida. Overcrowding of prisons is NOT the answer to the country's financial woes. When state funds are cut for the Department of Corrections and health care and proper nutrition are withdrawn from penal institutions, we (as a country) reduce ourselves to savages.

    I hear horror stories every week from parents in the U.S. who have incarcerated children who are being molested (sometimes with corrections officers fully aware of what is happening) and from family members who are desperate to have basic health care for their incarcerated loved ones. I am not talking about a third world country. I am talking about prisons in the USA. Overcrowding perpetuates abuse of inmates. I like you, Jack, but this is one issue where you have blinders on your eyes. Take another look.

    Carol Kent
    A New Kind of Normal (Thomas Nelson)

    February 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  126. John Metz (Midlothian, VA)

    Cailfornia must have done their math and firgured paying unemployment benefits to those released from prison early is cheaper than keeping them incarcerated. Glad these financial wizards are not in Washington. We have enough already.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  127. Susan from Twn Falls Idaho

    As long as they all stay in California I don't care. The state has gone to the dogs since the hippies were there in the sixties. It has become a melting pot of nuts and extremists.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  128. Bud in Seattle

    It is appalling how some criminals are released with the pipe dream that they can be rehabilitated as a form humane treatment in lieu of justice only to have them return to society and commit more or even worse crimes. I think those officials (including lawyers) responsible for their release should be singled out and held personally accountable for any released convict who commits a serious crime, especially murder.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  129. teresa

    Could it be that we have sent too many people to prison in the first place? The three strikes laws sentencing people to manditory prison sentences have resulted in us locking up a lot of people at the taxpayer's expense that would not need to be locked up. End that law and maybe our prisons wouldn't be so full.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  130. Misty K

    Make them work,like the chain gangs, we have to work and support ourselves. Get that sheriff in Arizona to come up with a plan. He'd fix it. Prison should be a bad place to go.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  131. Spencer Bevan-John

    Dear Jack:
    An eminent criminoligist once wrote that half the people in prison shouldn't be there and the other half should never be let out. As a sometime student of ciminology I agreed with the sentiment then as I do now. Society needs to be protected from the violent; far too many non-violent offenders who are locked up who don't need to be - there are other more creative ways of paying your debt to a society.

    Keep doing what you're doing Jack – an honest and well-informed voice is far too hard to find in the popular media.



    February 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  132. JR in Norfolk VA

    We need shorter, but tougher sentences. Thanks to the ACLU and other bleeding heart "inmates rights" groups, most of our prisons are little more than overcrowded hotels for felons who learn to hone their trade and network for when they get out. Thanks also go to a hip-hop culture that glorifies thuggery and getting locked up, when our young people should dread being arrested and sent to jail. Frankly, prison is no longer the deterrent it used to be, either physically, mentally or socially.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  133. Bernie from Tarpon Springs, FL

    If there is not enough room to treat these people humanely then release them.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  134. Jah

    You have to realize that the prison systems are extremely flawed. Not just here in California but everywhere. The inmates, criminals or not, are Americans and deserve proper mental and physical health care. And to suggest anything else would be unconstitutional on your part. Prison isn't always the best answer to criminal activity. Many times the prison experience will make the individual worse.There are thousands of programs other alternatives that will help the prisoner reform for the better. Especially if they are showing model conduct while incarcerated and can prove a severe change in character. They need to improve the parole programs so that these ex cons have some REAL in finding a new life. We are ALL Americans and we ALL make mistakes. Cut down this ridiculous number of prisoners and save some money. Prison is a lazy and irresponsible way to deal with our convicts. Not everybody in there is an ax-murderer.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  135. Gerry Straatemeier

    The prison industry is bloated at the expense of the taxpayer, and many nonviolent offenders are imprisoned at great public cost when other less expensive alternatives are available. The privatization of prisons has made this problem far worse, in addition to adding unprofessional standards and conduct to the mix.

    As a retired 25 year corrections professional, I can tell you that there are people I never want to see "the streets" again, but there are many who are only made worse and who also become institutionalized and re-offend to regain their secure, guaranteed "three hots and a cot"

    This may also be a time to review the prison sentences that are imposed for individual drug use – how much of our annual income is it worth to lock up addicts?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  136. Ed

    No, just stop giving them a free ride. They have an 800 bn stimulus package to repair infrastructure. Put them on road work like in the good old days. Paul Newman did it, so can they. Your dirt is in the bossmans yard!!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  137. John L. Sachko

    Hi Jack,

    No, don't release them, relocate them. We, as taxpayers, are forced to pick up the tab for housing these miscreants to the tune of $50 billion a year at state level, and $5 billion more at the federal level, as reported in the cited Washington Post. Perhaps we can take a page from President George W. Bush's book and export the problem. Maybe Mexico, or some emerging country would be receptive to housing our criminals, for a fee of course, which, I am confident, could be negotiated for far less than the $55 billion annual expenditure we currently endure. Certainly, these foreign billets could be reserved for the more egregious crimes, and those perpetrating them would probably have to endure their sentences without comfortable, warm, dry quarters, 3 nourishing meals per day, TV, well stocked libraries, exercise rooms, frequent visits from their attorneys to plot yet further appeals. I sincerely believe that the real threat of an extended sojourn in a third world prison would put the fear of God into those who have little, or no, fear of a comfortable, well fed stay in a stateside prison. And, there is also another up-side for our society . . . what to do with all those comfortable, secure, warm, dry, well equipped facilities already existing. Well, how about ready-made housing for all our deserving homeless? Or, how about a place to temporarily house the victims of disasters without trying to stash them in uninhabitable trailers. The well-equipped prisons are already there, and I don't think the hapless innocents I have just discussed would be overly concerned about libraries, or exercise rooms, or TV reception. Yes, I think a third world country would listen very intently to a proposal of, say, $20 billion a year, or so, to house our trash. At such figures, we could actually afford to care for the less fortunate among us and, maybe, have some left over for a bridge or two.

    John L. Sachko

    February 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  138. Lois E

    Why not? I'm sure that somewhere in the Economic Emergency Plan we have some funds earmarked for getting inmates back on their feet and back to work on the streets! This is a "spending Plan" isn't it?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  139. apucious

    Yes, and not only for that reason. The California penal system has been a savage on Black men, locking up non-violent offenders based on charges not leveled against white counterparts. The state has spent more than double the amount of money on corrections than education. Prisons have been taking money away from schools, and, Mr. Cafferty, your attitude towards the question of prison reform, which you seem to believe has a obvious answer, is part of the problem.

    Since 2000, prison expenditures nearly equal higher education expenditures, and as a result, tuition rates go up, the number of black men in prison in California is up and the number of black men in college is down. Four thousand fewer black men are enrolled in college in California than in 1980. If you ran a piece tomorrow warning against the bleak societal climb that faces lower wage earning Black men, you would have to rectify it with an attitude that says lock almost anybody up for almost any crime.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  140. Croz

    You should absolutely give these people their liberty. As a citizen, I am disgusted at the thought of another humam being wasting away in those terrible insitutions we call prisons. To take away another's liberty requires the greatest justification and yet sadly our leaders to often resort to imprisonment. And for what? Most often, the reason cited is illicit drug use or distribution. Drug use, like most life style choices, should be a personal perogative. Only when concrete action imminently endangers another should the govt step in, i.e. the stoner sitting on the crouch vs. the stoner driver a vehicle. The latter's action is endangering others and that act of endangerment is justifiably punished while the former's act of getting high is merely impactly the individual.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  141. sean brizendine

    jack unfortunately california has operated since the 80s with locking up non-violent drug offenders most who frankly were only a danger to themselves and i think its about time for a comprehensive strategy to only lock up violent criminals and to put non-violent drug offenders in treatment not prison.
    "sean in santa rosa"

    February 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  142. Chris from Florida

    You really want to get rid of the failing prison system?

    Dont let the ones that are in there for low level crimes. Keep them in there. But the ones that are in there for high violent repeatable crimes, let them out, put them on a boat in the pacific ocean 5 miles out into sea. and allow the navy and air force to use that boat as target practice for air to surface missles and torpedo runs from the navy...not only that but make a weekly show of this happening showing the american people what will happen if they commit a violent crime.

    You get rid of the violent criminals and the ones that are thinking about doing a violent crime will think twice before doing one. just think of the advertising money that could be made airing this as a weekly show. "Jerry springer show"? hell no "The violent criminal prisoner bombings show"

    February 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  143. M Fritz

    I applaud the Governor for realizing the huge savings that can be redistributed to fund other much needed programs in our state. The jails and prisons are big business money makers. It makes great sense to release non-viloent drug offenders that are costing the state exorbitant amounts. Many studies have shown the benefits of treatment vs incarceration. The California proposition nearly passed so apparently many of us see that this reform to be supported.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  144. Chuck Chodora

    Should prisoners be released early - definitely not. While in prison all they did was "pump iron" and play basketball. They had no vocational training or, in the case of non-English speaking immigrants, required to learn to speak fluent English. So if they are released, how will they support themselves??

    February 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  145. Jasmine in Germany

    No, that's unacceptable and sends the wrong message to criminals; petty or otherwise. Money isn't everything. If the US really wants less crime, we should keep guns and automatic weapons out of the hands of people who have no justification for having them (legally or illegally). And crime does start from the bottom up; petty criminals should be penalized.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  146. Sue Morris

    All that we need now is to have early release of criminals. We live in a nice suburb ,at least it was until this last yr when people lost jobs. Now there is robbery unheard of before) and other criminal acts-like assaults, so the idea of letting more criminals out of jail early is ludicrous!!! And stupid-led by a congress who all seem to need to be audited!!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  147. Diane

    Let them go ahead and release the non-violent inmates. You know, the ones caught up in the never ending ever expanding and costly War on Drugs.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  148. Peter O'Neill

    It should be remembered that by some very reliable estimates, a significant portion of prison population, as much as 35-40 percent by some estimates, is believed to be the result of undiagnosed and untreated mental health situations, with many posing no threat to others. And until we are able to correct the historically poor delivery of mental health treatment, we're going to keep our prisons full with those who should be in a hospital. Just one more thing we can thank Ronald Reagan for.

    Peter O'Neill, New Cumberland, PA

    February 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  149. mark

    Jack, I like you, I agree with you much of the time, but you're way off this time. It could very well be this is a good idea.

    California has a ton of people in the prison system that are there on nonviolent drug offenses. The US has a higher percentage of it's citizens in prison than any other industiralized nation, higher than the Soviet Union did during the bad old days of Communism.

    Our prison system is overcrowded in large part due to the idiotic "War on Drugs," and yet when 3 judges, who more than likely have a great deal of experience in the criminal just system, come up with what may be a creative and effective way to deal with prison overcrowding, you dismiss it out of hand without any apparent willingness to take it seriously. Come on Jack, you're smarter than that.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  150. Randy in Boise, ID

    California could start saving money by clearing out death row.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  151. Jeff Powell Bridgeton NJ

    With so many of our major cities cutting services releasing some non-violent criminals should be looked into. Our justice system gets it wrong more and more these days.innocent people are dying in prison before being proven innocent. Cut taxpayer liability by letting non violent prisoners get paroled early. keep police officers on the job.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  152. Bob

    I suppose the answer to prisoner overcrowding is in front of our noses. Steal enough like Madoff and others alledgedly did on Wall Street did and it would end all prison overcrowding. Does anyone really think they will really spend a day of hard time? Maybe we should just throw a special tax on wealthy criminals to help pay for keeping the poor behind bars!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  153. Susan of Fairbanks,AK

    The sentences in the USA are usually harsh. I think it is a good idea to allow prisoners an early out for good behavior. Or, in the case of crimes, related to drug addiction, after they have completed an "in-house" rehab program. There should be some type of control in place like parole or halfway houses. or some other type of monitering system.
    This program shouldn't apply to violent repeat offenders or people who have harmed a lot of others through white collar theft. They should be looked at on a case by case basis. If it works, apply it to other states.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  154. Jim from Alabama

    Maybe we should just stop litigating morality, creating criminals, and sending them through a flawed system of punishment. Then we wouldn't have this problem !!!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  155. Alma from Virginia

    Jack, If they are releasing non-violent drug offenders --then let us all rejoice! We will stop wasting our tax dollars firstly!! Secondly, these inmates will be with their loved ones where they belong and finally receive attention to their addictions- Prison only makes it worse–much worse. I hope every state in this country follows California's lead!!!!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  156. Carol

    When the prisoners who are let out can't find jobs, what do you think they'll do?? They'll be right back in the system costing more taxpayer $$.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  157. Chris

    They should take the inmates medical and other insurance away and make their family carry them on their own insurance.
    When they broke the law they choose to ignore the laws of this great nation. So why should the people pay for them to have better health care than most Americans who obey the laws?
    Individual states could then use the money waisted on convicts to help those in their own state to afford health care or help with prescription meds.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  158. Lee Gibson, Carson City, Nev.

    We have a higher per capata prison population than Germany under Hitler of The Soviet Union under Stalin. Though most of our facilities for incarceration are still masquarading under the title of "Correctional Institutions", they are in fact warehouses for the mentally ill and punishment wards for the victims of a misled and vengful society society. Rehabilitation is a bad word in some political circles, so effective programs are seldom followed through on. Untill this changes, Prisons will continue to suck up public funds and long sentences in abysmal conditions will be the ralleying cry of politicians who want to distract the public mind from our real problems.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  159. Clementine from Fort Bragg, NC

    Why is it that everytime there is something crazy in the news it's about California? You've got crazy octomom having babies she can't provide for, uncontrollable illegal immigration and now their lawmakers want to release criminals so they can save money. I think the normal people need to just give up and move out. It's time to just surrender California to the crazies.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  160. Rauno

    Absolutely not! I think we need to make some more room in the prisons for our crooks in congress, senate and wall street.

    Bradenton, Florida

    February 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  161. Allen L Wenger

    We are spending way too much on building prisons and incarcerating nonviolent law breakers. Attach GPS devices to nonviolent criminals; they can live at home and be monitored for a fraction of the cost.

    Mountain Home ID

    February 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  162. Agnes from Scottsdale, AZ

    Jack: Rather than release inmates, there should be a re-thinking of what crimes requiare prison time. Too many people are literally thrown in jail for offenses that are not consistent with the crime.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  163. Lynn, Boise, ID

    Wouldn't using our reasoning ability to determine who is a threat to society and who isn't undermine those bogus "0 tolerance" policies?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  164. Don (Ottawa)

    I say send them to Australia like they used to do, or better still Iraq.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  165. Tom in CA

    California's over-crowding is solely attributable to the 3 strikes and you're out law. By not increasing bed space, California now has a 2-1 prisoner-bed ratio.

    Do you want to sleep with a criminal in your bed? Of course not!

    Further, since California has a $42 Billion budget hole it looks like some things are going to go by the wayside – mandated lower classroom sizes, criminals incarcerated, etc.,...etc.,...etc.

    Jack you got to do what the Judge says – make the prisons into a country club!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  166. Janet from California

    Release them....it is insane to keep so many people locked up. There is no rehabilitating going on insude our prisons.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  167. Ren, Aizona

    Prisons are big business. They make money put putting people in them. Every time they open a new prison they have to fill it or loose money. That means put alot of people in there that really shouldn't be there. Alot of these people that got caught doing or in possession of small amount of drugs. These people never committed a crime against anyone but themselves. Prison isn't the place for them. Rehab is where they should, but not in prison.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  168. charles c franklin

    There are too many non-violent prisoners who are serving too many years that are unjustified....i donate to the Innocence Project that has helped numerous prisoners to their freedom who served long time as inncoents of rape charges, thanks to DNA'....yet some fatcat who stole billions from shareholders is sitting comfortably in Pent House in NYC while under indictment....and tow young people with no prior record and no evidence of crimes they are charged with face up to 24 years in prison in the state of Pennsylvania. We need a reform of our lopsided justice system that favors the rich and the majority population and the court order to reduce the California penal population is a good start.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  169. Cedric

    What's more important? An innocent life at risk of being taken or hurt by a repeat and known offender, or money?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  170. Shelby

    Let me tell you how safe that makes me feel. The police are already having budget cuts, so crime is already up here in the Metro Atlanta area, and now we're going to be releasing criminals? Sure, let's let the inmates loose on a police-less environment. See how that goes.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  171. J Freeman - Silicon Valley CA

    Absolutely Jack! I was born and raised here in California, and our state has the highest percentage of its population incarcerated in the entire world! This problem grew exponentially when our past governor Gray Davis was ending his terrorism of our budget by paying back his campaign promises to labor unions, and setting in motion the construction of over ten new prisons, thus the new union contracts to build them. Most of them are not even close to finished still (and he's been gone now for half a decade), and those that are still stuffed to the gills have still not changed the crime rates in California.
    Also immigration is at the core of this issue as well, as much of the population is grandfather via sentencing when they should have been sent back to their own countries, and our borders shored up. Judges, DA's pretending they're making us safer - all just boosting their careers not on rehabilitation, but long sentences, has preyed on one victim for far too long - the tax payer!
    Poor Armie had this mess dumped on his lap, and this may sound crazy, but we need to use electronic surveillance, and focus on rehabilitation realities and truths, and stop giving our federal and state tax monies to the pork barreled pockets of labor unions that supply all of the construction and staffing of these prisons, at the sake of human lives.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  172. Terry Ann from California

    73,047 California parolees were sent back to prison in 2008. Not for committing new crimes – for "technical violations" of their parole. Not reporting on time, not getting a job in time, etc.

    That's a lot of money to spend to incarcerate people for NOT committing a new crime. The parole system in this state sends 7 out of every 10 parolees back to prison at least once and often over and over.

    It's not rocket science as to how to save a ton of money AND reduce the prison population by 70,000 IN THE FIRST YEAR.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  173. Gracie

    My husband is currently an inmate in the California prison system. He tells me that inmates in there are having very expensive operations like knee replacements, back surgeries, and the like. Who's paying for these surgeries? We are. It costs the state approximately $45,000 per inmate per year not counting these surgeries and procedures. I think non-violent inmates should be released because it will free up millions of dollars and it goes beyond that. So many children are out here without their fathers, many of their families are on welfare and many inmates have not committed violent crimes where they should be locked up under the current California 3 strikes law. That law was not well thought out. These inmates are getting older and the costs to maintain them will only go up and cost the state alot more in the long run. Many like my husband just want to be out here with their families and have a chance for a normal life. But too many people like Jack are afraid and assume these guys will get out to commit more crimes. I just dont believe that.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  174. Kooky in CA

    Simple, make the prisons comply with federal laws regarding adequate facilities for inmates and there is no problem. The problem is, it costs money.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  175. arthur alferez in .CA

    let none violent offenders out. offer successful programs to them .it doesnt really matter though all the county jails in california have thousands of prisoners waiting to go to prison ,so its just gonna get filled right back up change state laws and parole conditions it would help.

    February 10, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  176. Chris

    Um...what part of CRIMINAL don't people understand? Honest Americans are cold, starving, and homeless. Here these criminals get 3 hots and a cot, PLUS goos health care. If their families want them to have health care then they need to provide it for them NOT honest citizens.
    We need to stop pampering them. They get cable tv and gyms with workout areas....what idiot slipped on a banana and hit their head so hard that they thought this is ok?

    February 10, 2009 at 4:57 pm |