A major breakthrough in the rehabilitation process for criminal offenders was reached recently when new budget legislation was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown. The new legislation, which makes rehabilitation for offenders a top priority, will fund programs to help reduce the percentage of repeat offenders. While this new development is certainly a step in the right direction, some skeptics contend that in order to effectively implement criminal justice realignment entirely, more funding is needed.
The 2014-2015 Criminal Rehabilitation Budget
Much of the stakeholders’ concerns are rooted in the fact that a majority of the state’s budget -$500 million to be exact– will be used to pay for the construction of jails and other criminal justice facilities. Most members of the Californians United for a Responsible Budget feel that it is in the state’s best interest to fund social service programs and reduce the use of prison and jail facilities. Spokeswoman Emily Harris echoed this sentiment, adding, “The budget deal continues to send billions of dollars down the ‘rat hole’ of incarceration while including no significant restorations to anti-poverty and social safety net programs..” 1
A smaller portion of the budget- $106 million – will go towards rehabilitation programs and an even smaller amount of $12 million will be allotted to training local law enforcement how to deal with mentally ill and drug-addicted individuals.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, however, remains optimistic for what the future holds. “In this budget, we are finally taking significant steps to slow the revolving door where three out of every four offenders have simply cycled in and out of prison cells with no chance to turn around their lives,” 2 Steinberg said.
What Wallin & Klarich Think
The allocation of money to the rehabilitation of mentally ill and drug-addicted criminal offenders is not only effective, but long overdue.
In an ideal world, criminal offenders with mental disorders and substance abuse issues could rely on protected, safe residential communities to carry out their sentences. In these “communities,” residents would have access to the particular therapy that they required (psychotherapy, medical care, substance-abuse treatment), which would better prepare them for integration into the outside world. 3
At Wallin & Klarich, we firmly believe that those who suffer from mental disorders or are addicted to drugs should be dealt with differently than other criminal offenders. By constructing programs that will attempt to rehabilitate this particular group of offenders, the state will be creating a lifelong solution to the issue rather than a temporary fix.
What Do You Think?
Our firm always welcomes feedback from both our readers and our clients. Do you think funding rehabilitation programs is the correct way to approach the issue of repeat offenders? Can you think of an alternative solution that might be more effective? We would love to hear from you.
1. [Daily Journal – State budget focuses on rehabilitation of criminal offenders – June 23, 2014.]↩