Jul 30, 2014
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Local Assemblyman Asking for Plan to Reduce Prison Population

Anthony Portantino's legislation would require the state department of corrections to figure out how to reduce prisoner recidivism rates by 20 percent within the next four years

Local Assemblyman Asking for Plan to Reduce Prison Population

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) wants the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to establish goals that will halt the revolving door of inmates heading back to prison.

Portantino introduced AB 219 because he wants to shift the prison debate from a one-dimensional early release and sentencing reform to holding the state accountable for a lower recidivism rate.

“We’re asking the department to come up with a game plan – a sound, public policy planned approach to lower the number of people returning to prison and lower the prison population and crime rate,’’ Portantino said.

The bill, AB 219, would require the CDCR to establish goals to cut California’s recidivism rates by 20 percent within the next four years, and 40 percent by 2020. The department would also be mandated to report and verify those rates, Portantino explained, noting California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. Two-thirds of California offenders return to prison within three years.

According to Portantino’s figures, the state spends 7.6 percent of the general fund on warehousing prisoners and overseeing parolees  - that amounts to $10 billion annually. It makes sense, then, to work toward reducing the number of parolees sent back to prison, as that would cut a considerable chunk of money from the prison system, he said.

His figures further show that 456 out of every 100,000 people are behind bars in California, with the average cost to the state per prisoner running $49,000 per year. 

“State agencies offer goals to reduce global warming and increase renewable energy use. We’re asking the department to establish goals that will lower the recidivism rate,’’ Portantio said.

 Capt. David Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is always trying to find ways to improve safety, cut crime, and reduce recidivism. 

“It appears that Assembly Member Portantino’s bill may address all three areas.  We will have to wait and monitor to see if his goal is achieved,’’ he said.

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