Is sentencing reform possible?

New Brown appointment could signal willingness to look at reform

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown's pick to run the prisons system, Jeff Beard, has some experience in the field; he ran Pennsylvania's system for more than nine years.  That's all well and good, but there is an interesting note in his background:

Beard is not shy about voicing opinions on where the criminal justice system fails. He told Pennsylvania lawmakers that heavy reliance on incarceration of low-level offenders "has proven to have limited value in maintaining public safety."

In a 2005 commentary, Beard called on the corrections community to "rethink who really belongs in prison." He sought an end to popular "scared straight" programs he said actually increase the likelihood released inmates will commit future crimes. "We must have the will to put an end to feel-good and/or publicly popular programs that simply do not work," Beard wrote.(LA Times)

For years, former Sen. Gloria Romero and others tried to get some attention on this issue, to little avail. Despite the huge issues with overcrowding, there wasn't the real traction to get our sentencing system overhauled with anything nearing a sane process. Maybe this is a kick in the pants for this process.

If we are to really refocus our spending on the priorities that actually matter to Californians, and are going to make our communities safer, we have to do that by actually trying to make them safer. We have to really rehabilitate prisoners, not merely warehouse them. We have to get them out of the system, and prevent the massively expensive cycle of recidivism.

When that cycle is broken, we both save money and get better results in our communities. It won't be easy, but it is a necessary task.

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