David Beck-Brown - Writer - More Trouble for Our Prison System

Home News Artist Artist Writer Writer Actor Actor
Collectors
About the Artist
 

 

       
 
Police Hot Stop
 
Amerikan Gestapo
 
 
Archive to 2009:
 
United We Stand
 
Feathers: (An Epic Prison Poem)
 
The Political Catwalk
 
Jack's Back Out
 
The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Police
 
3-Strikes is a Trick
 
Pea Bargaining
 
The Fritter Machine
 
Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty
 
A Solid Egg
 
Escape Goats
 
House of Cards
 
Thought Police
 
If Youíre Not Familiar with It, Donít Try to Fix It
 
The War on Drugs, a Colombian's View
 
Wild Prison Life
 
The High Price of Prison Riots
 
Corrections, reform yourself
 
Prison Reform is Not Happening
 
Jessica's Law: One-strike Laws are Bad
 
The High Cost of Prison Overcrowding
 
More Trouble for Our Prison System
 
Rebuilding the California Department of Corrections
 
New Prisons Chief Faces Tough Task
 
Can Our Prisons
Afford It?
 
Tough on Crime?
Our Wallets Take the Beating
 
An Open Letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
 
An Argument for Funding California's Arts in Corrections Program
 
Faceless
 
Writing Résumé
 
Prison-Reform Résumé

 

David Beck-Brown

  Political Cartoon by David Beck-Brown
(Political Cartoon by David Beck-Brown)

More Trouble for Our Prison System

By David Beck-Brown
San Diego Union Tribune, August 12, 2004

A federal district judge has threatened to take over the troubled
California Department of Corrections.

Judge Thelton Henderson condemned concessions Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association in union negotiations. The concessions give the union too much power and undermines the ability of the court to investigate abuse of inmates and the actions of rogue officers, states Henderson.

Henderson is considering appointing a receiver to manage the country's
largest prison system. The governor responded with a letter from his legal department defending his accomplishments at reforming the Department of Corrections.

This comes on the heels of a blue ribbon report by a panel of experts
appointed by Schwarzenegger recommending 239 changes for the troubled California prison system. The report describes the prison system as routinely overspending its budget and costing the state millions of
dollars in unnecessary lawsuits for failing to implement inmate programs.
The conclusions considered input from the Little Hoover Commission, the
Office of the Inspector General and the state auditor, among other
organizations.

The prison guards union wields unprecedented influence over state policies and warden appointments. According to the report, a "code of silence" among some correctional staff has hampered investigations. The former director of the California Department of Corrections, Edward Alameda, also may be indicted on charges of obstructing justice in cases of staff misconduct at prisons in Pelican Bay and Sacramento.

Judge Henderson has been overseeing Pelican Bay State Prison since 1995 when he found a pattern of abuse by prison guards. He currently is probing internal affairs procedures for the entire state prison system.

Henderson's demand for a face-to-face meeting with the governor and the blue ribbon panel recommendations for changing the California prison
system are unprecedented in state history. The prison system has over
300,000 adult, juvenile and parolees assigned under its care and has one
of the highest reincarceration rates in the world. For the past several
months it has been the focus of state investigations and found to be
plagued with scandals.

California has additional opportunities to reform the prison system and to
reduce the annual cost of incarceration by voting to amend the Draconian
three strikes initiative that incarcerates nonviolent third-strike
offenders to 25-years-to-life prison sentences. We also can encourage our legislators to pass reform bill AB 1914, which will put prison programs under education.

Genuine prison reform is attainable through restructuring the correctional
system and rebuilding it on a foundation of rehabilitation, education and
counseling. We no longer have the luxury of being "tough on crime." We
must be wiser and smarter. The lack of rehabilitation has come to the
public's attention in a Los Angeles Times article quoting the spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections, Terry Thornton, as stating "the purpose of incarceration is punishment, not rehabilitation." This conflicts with the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, which has "rehabilitative activities" as one of the primary objectives of the correctional institutions.

When working with felons, teachers are qualified task masters and
effective disciplinarians. A young felon may challenge a beefy
correctional officer; however, the same felon will be noticeably
self-disciplined in a classroom taught by a teacher. Inmates assigned to
education are accountable for their actions. If they fail to demonstrate
personal improvements, the teacher will re-engage and motivate the
inmate/student in learning. The inmate's failure is often perceived as the
teacher's failure. The same applies to substance abuse programs.

Without the opportunity to receive counseling a felon does little more
than serve his prison sentence socializing with other convicts and
becoming more entrenched in the prison culture and its failed revolving
door. The taxpayer pays the bill.

Parolees are too often sent out of prison worse then when they arrived.
This does not protect the public.

The conclusions of the recent reports and state oversight hearings have
opened the door to genuine prison reform. This is an opportunity that
California cannot afford to miss.

Beck-Brown is on reform chairman with A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing) and has worked with inmates in county, state and federal penal systems, including the federal witness protection program.