Extreme Sentencing Failures and Fallacies
Here in California, we have swayed so far away from a goal of public safety as the main criteria for keeping individuals behind bars. We impose lengthy, draconian sentences with retribution in mind, as if somehow this will keep us safe, when what it really does is siphon funds away from the community supports that can provide real safety.
California prisons house far too many elderly -- 1 in almost 3 today is 50 or older (50 is the accepted designation of elderly in prison as individuals age more rapidly in prison) at an average per prisoner, per year, cost approaching $200K; virtually all the research indicates even those with the highest risk have recidivism rates approaching zero by the time they reach the age of 40.
Our country now has more people serving life sentences, than were incarcerated in total in 1970. In California almost 1 in 3 of the incarcerated population is serving a life sentence compared to 1 in 7 nationally.
Years of studies on the deterrence value of extreme sentences have shown these sentences do not deter crime nor do they promote public safety.
The humanitarian cost of keeping individuals behind bar decades after they have rehabilitated themselves is unethical and violates human rights.
The cost to families and communities is borne to an unequitable degree by communities of color.
The alarming rate of increase in incarceration of women completely devastates whole families for a generation to come.
I personally know of so many elderly women who sit in front of the parole board time after time, sometimes for decades, and are denied parole because they “lack insight” or because their expressions of remorse are “Inadequate.” Do we really think these elderly, some approaching 80 years of age are going to become more capable of articulating these all important factors the board uses to deny parole? Cognitive decline is real !!
While criminal justice reform legislation has improved in recent years, far too often these bills do not provide for retrospective application.
Time for change in this country