A Common Sense Approach to Prison Reform

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Abree Dominguez is a junior media studies major.

abree-dominguezThe prison system in California is flawed. This November, voters have the ability to improve the prison systems within the state while also helping rehabilitate those who are currently incarcerated. Proposition 57 would increase parole chances for felons convicted of nonviolent offenses and offer opportunities to earn credits for good behavior. Criminals are often painted with broad strokes and thrown into overcrowded prisons. It is time for Californians to vote yes on Proposition 57 to create viable futures for nonviolent criminals.

If voters passed Proposition 57, it would keep public safety decisions in the hands of California law enforcement professionals, and would avoid the possibility of mandatory prison release orders from federal officials. Judges would have more say in which youth offenders should be tried as adults, and create incentives for prisoners to learn basic skills while they are incarcerated. This would allow for a smoother transition into society after they are released, reducing the rate of recidivism.

California prisons violate basic human rights. The Public Policy Institute of California found that the state’s prisons are 135.8 percent over capacity. The living conditions prisoners are forced to live in are inhumane. Since prisons are overcrowded, inmates are more likely to be involved in misconduct. UC Berkeley found that overcrowding leads to psychological damage and dysfunctional behaviors. If Proposition 57 passes, it would help with the overcrowding issue by not placing as many people in jail.

Solitary confinement within prisons is also a violation of human rights; researchers at the United Nations consider solitary confinement to be torture. The prison system in California regularly uses solitary confinement as a form of punishment. When inmates are in solitary confinement, they normally spend 22 hours a day locked in a cell with no human contact and no path for rehabilitation. Being alone for this long can lead to detrimental behaviors. Voting yes on Proposition 57 would allow nonviolent inmates the chance to escape the everyday realities of solitary confinement and overcrowding that they are forced to face while being in prison.

California spends more money on funding prisons than it does colleges and universities. If Proposition 57 passes, taxpayers could see that the money that is used on prisons allocated to other sectors throughout the state, cutting away at the $9.6 billion dollars spent annually on prisons in California.

Voting yes on Proposition 57 is crucial because it supports parole so that non-violent offenders would have the chance to create a new life. Inmates would not directly be released back into society, but would undergo rehabilitation. Proposition 57 would allow for increases in parole and inmate release while conserving government expenditures. Proposition 57 would also increase public safety, which all Californians deserve. Prison reform is crucial because the criminal justice system is flawed. As college students, we have the chance to vote on something and see direct change while also giving people a second chance at life.

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