Three Issues Facing California

Photo Source: Forbes
Photo Source: Forbes

 

  • Problem 1: Detrimental Impact of California’s Large Prison Population

Too much of California’s scarce resources are being spent on incarcerating people, particularly nonviolent drug users. Spending at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) went from 3% of the states annual budget in 1980 to 11% in 2009. Since 1980 the CDCR budget has grown by an astronomical 436 percent. A large part of the problem is due to the policy of mass incarceration of nonviolent drug users for petty possession charges, also known as the ‘war on drugs.’

Prisons are more than overcrowded. They are a human rights issue violating the 8th amendment to the constitution. There is inadequate space, medical treatment, sanitation, nutrition, and that doesn’t account for solitary confinement, inmates on death row or the abuse by prison authorities. Filled prisons are a destabilizing socio-economic force, perpetuating cycles of poverty and single parent households especially in lower income communities. People of color are disproportionately targeted for arrest and drug prosecution. We must rectify these societal injustices and reduce our spending in this sector even more than the Governors’ 2013-2014 Budget proposal of nine billion dollars to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The Supreme Court agreed when they ruled that California had to reduce prison crowding to 137.5% of capacity by June 2013. Governor Brown’s Justice Department readily acknowledges they will be unlikely to meet the deadline.

Solution: I recommend the following: release the 24,959  nonviolent drug offenders, prioritizing those exhibiting good behavior; focus incarceration efforts on violent and sexual crimes; allot a portion of the money currently spent on imprisonment towards intensive drug treatment; and conduct research on lowering the cost of prisons while improving services.

  • Problem 2: Is our education system working?

In many schools, California’s public education system is failing its students, particularly impoverished students and students of color. Impoverished children are less likely to graduate from high school, go to or graduate from college. Of the 72,320 high school dropouts this past year, 42,129 were Hispanic. Students who do graduate college find themselves with a crippling average debt of $19,000 and unprecedented unemployment rates. The cost of education rises as services, infrastructure, and the quality and availability of instruction diminishes. There are insufficient funds for special needs, integrated technology, and blended learning programs. Standardized testing as a metric to evaluate students does little to foster critical thinking, writing abilities, or useful skills for life, future education, and employment. The Economic Policy Institute warned of damaging consequences to test-based evaluation systems or merit pay based on test scores.

  • Problem 3: Water Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Water is the most essential resource for survival on this planet, and California is running out. Regrettably, California’s water system is in grave peril. We face serious obstacles in keeping up with water demand for our current population and we will be unable to meet future increased demands. Experts agree our systems are in need of major upgrades. Climate change and droughts diminish snow reserves California needs in order replenish reservoirs. The integral hub of California’s water system, the Delta is endangered by levee failure, and sea-levels rising as native fish populations fall. Twenty million California residents rely on the Delta for water. Sea –level rise would corrupt the existing freshwater supply and flood the homes, farms, and other Delta residents’ private property. Without a stable and secure source of freshwater Californian’s could find themselves without constant access to food and water in the very near future.

Sources: Problem 1 Detrimental Impact of California’s Large Prison Population


1. “The Future of California Corrections – A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Court Oversight, and Improve the Prison System”  http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/2012plan/docs/plan/complete.pdf

2. Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California

3. BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL. v. PLATA ET AL. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-1233.pdf

4. Geurino, P., Harrison, P. M., & Sabol, W. (2011). Prisoners in 2010. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf

5. 2013-2014 Governor’s Budget Summary, Edmund G. Brown Jr. Governor, State of California — http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/BudgetSummary/FullBudgetSummary.pdf

6. American Psychological Association – Psychologists offer ways to improve prison environment, reduce violent crime — http://phys.org/news168967098.html

7. Prison Fellowship International – beyond crime and punishment http://www.pfi.org/cjr/downloads/ten-keys-to-improving-conditions-in-overcrowded-prisons

Sources: Problem 2: Education

8. California Department Of Education Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 — http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr12/yr12rel65.asp

9. Project On Student Debt, California – http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-view2012.php?area=CA

10. Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers – Economic Policy Institute — http://www.epi.org/publication/bp278/

 

Sources: Problem 3: Water Water Everywhere and not a drop to drink

11. California Water Today – Public Policy Institute of California —http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_211EHChapter2R.pdf

12. Association of California Water Agencies —  http://www.acwa.com/spotlight/california-water-2012-water-bond