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Educate or incarcerate: why slash schools to keep nonviolent lifers in prison?

March 18, 2010

by Larry Wallace

Good advice on Valencia Street in San Francisco
It has become painfully obvious that our political leaders are more interested in incarceration than education. Over the years education spending in our wonderful state has declined 4 percent while prison spending has increased 8 percent.

While many other states have chosen to change their draconian sentencing laws and reduce their prison populations, to cut spending and save money, California has chosen to continue warehousing thousands of non-violent men and women who are serving 25-years-to-life sentences for crimes such as joyriding, petty theft, attempted burglary, receiving stolen property, making criminal threats and petty drug possession.

These inmates receive no type of work time or good time credits. Yet someone who has committed a murder does receive these credits and is eligible for parole after serving just 17 years of their sentence, while a non-violent three-strike inmate must serve the entire 25 years before he or she is eligible for parole.

California continues to have enormous budget deficits, and a prison system that is extremely overcrowded is draining state funds that would normally be used for education. However, the legislators continue to portray non-violent three-strike inmates as dangerous criminals who deserve to serve a life sentence for crimes that would have ordinarily carried six months to one year in the county jail.

Most of these inmates have already served 14 to 15 years and are up in age. These are the inmates that will surely need the medical services the federal receiver is asking for in order to bring the California prison system into compliance within constitutional requirements.

California’s extremely overcrowded prison system is draining state funds that would normally be used for education. Yet legislators continue to portray non-violent three-strike inmates as dangerous criminals who deserve to serve a life sentence for crimes that would have ordinarily carried six months to one year in the county jail.

The majority of these offenders have never killed, molested, raped or committed violent acts against anyone. Must are drug abusers who have committed petty drug related offenses, who, with proper drug and alcohol treatment, could become productive, tax paying citizens instead of tax burdens.

California is being fleeced by politicians who want to continue warehousing non-violent three-strike inmates, all the while knowing that the expense of such a policy grows exponentially by the month.

The California prison system should not be allowed to continue to draining the state’s assets for political gains or ideologies, while breaking the back of the state’s education and other human resource organizations and institutions.

Education and treatment and not prisons are the best investments for California’s tax dollars.

Send our brother some love and light. Write to: Larry Wallace, B-81479, Folsom State Prison, B5-AB1-06, P.O. Box 715071, Represa CA 95671.

The governor’s hypocrisy

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s State of the State address Jan. 6 included a proposal to prepare a constitutional amendment to prevent the state from spending more money on prisons than higher education and to allow privatization of California’s prison system. Yet, his message rings empty to grassroots groups who have spent years highlighting California’s skewed budget priorities.

“It’s two-faced at best to say you want to reduce prison spending but then to spend state money fighting the prison population reduction order,” cautioned Manuel La Fontaine of All of Us or None, an initiative by former prisoners to stop discrimination against people with felony convictions.

“If you look closely, he’s arguing for expansion and the total privatization of the prison system, which would be more expensive,” explained Geri Silva of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes. “How could higher education spending possibly keep up with corrections spending if California has 25,000 more prison beds, public or private?”

California’s prison population has grown by over 500 percent since 1980, rising from under 30,000 to about 170,000 by the end of 2009. Over 24,000 people are locked up in state prison for nothing more than a petty drug offense at a cost of over $1 billion a year.

These are excerpts from press releases by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), www.CURBprisonspending.org, and Drug Policy Alliance, www.drugpolicy.org.

One thought on “Educate or incarcerate: why slash schools to keep nonviolent lifers in prison?

  1. John Mulligan

    Your statements regarding murder and three strike law are untrue. A “strike” is a violent crime. According to California Penal Codes 1170.1, 667.5 and 1192, a person must be convicted of two violent felonies, strikes, before a third felony of any kind can trigger a 25-L sentence. In other words, 1 robbery + 1 rape + 1 any kind of felony including non-violent = 25-L. Thus, there are no “nonviolent” 3 strikers as anyone serving time under three strikes must have at least two violent priors. Why wouldn’t you research that before writing this silly article?

    Everyone in California prisons doing time for any violent offense, including murder, does 85% time. That’s just fact. There is no difference between a 3 striker or a murderer, they do 85% time. Everyone, including 3 strikers, get to go before a parole board once they have served 85% of their sentence. Thus, 3 strikers get to go before a parole board in about 21 and a half years. I have no idea what you’re talking about with murder. The sentence for first degree murder is a minimum 25 to life sentence unless there is a plea bargain. With weapons and gang enhancements, 50-L sentences and higher are common. This is a sloppy article and it should be removed.

    Reply

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