April 3, 2008 By Wallin & Klarich

With the recent “law and order” attitude that seems to prevail in our society it is fueling our state legislators to continue to pass laws increase prison sentences for those convicted of crimes.

A direct result of this hysteria is to bring our jail system to the brink of disaster.

At the present time the Los Angeles County Jail is so overcrowded that if you have the misfortune of finding yourself a guest it is a real possibility you will be forced to sleep on a cold concrete floor without a mattress. Our states prison population continues to rise and currently is at a prison population that is 580 percent higher than twenty years ago. There is no end in sight.

The “soft on crime” vies that are promoted on many radio and television talk shows only increases the stampede to put more people in prison. The result could not be worse economically for a California economy that finds itself drowning in debt. At present the California penal system costs our taxpayers over TEN BILLION dollars a year. Yet what are we doing to try to “solve the problem”? It seems like very little.

A vast majority of the people that end up in prison are represented by the public defenders offices throughout the state. In many cases, to no fault of their own the public defender cannot provide the level of legal defense that should be received by anyone facing jail time. Thus the jails are full of poor people, mostly minority who could not find the funds to retain private counsel.

Today 40 percent of the nations prison population are African Americans, although that minority group only makes up 12% of our population. 50% of those in prison are high school drop outs and 72% of that group is unemployed at the time of the commission of the offense for which they were sent to prison. Are we doing anything to tackle the real problem? It seems not.

At a time when we as a state and nation should be spending money to educate our minority population and to provide them with drop training skills, we are putting those funds into building more and more prisons. Unless somebody does something to alter this very disturbing trend we will continue to see costs skyrocket and we will see our prisons as nothing more than “revolving doors” with the same guests visiting over and over. We must wake up as citizens and elect people to high office who understand that is only through education and not through “prison building projects” that we can break this dangerous cycle.

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