Nov. 11, 2012
The California Criminal justice system received good news last week with the passage of Proposition 30. The approximtely six billion dollars to be raised through proposition 30 will be split between public education and the criminal justice system. (This fiscal year, roughly $850 million will come to counties for prison realignment reform, an amount expected to increase to more than $1 billion next year). Funding in future years will be proportional to state tax revenues (see: Fresno Bee article)
The importance of this so-called “constitutional guarantee” (Propositions can be deemed to be constitutional amendments in California) should not be underestimated. Counties are extremely dubious about state promises of continued funding. Almost fifty years ago, under Governor Ronald Reagan, most mental Institutions were shut down across the state, with the promise that tens of thousands of mentally disturbed patients would be cared for in smaller local facilities (such as board and care homes). The institutions were closed down, but few local facilities were established, creating an enormous problem that lives with us to this day, with many mentally ill living on the streets of California cities.
Those who believed that state funding would be short-lived, tended to favor using the state’s realignment grants to build jail extensions, as it provides a bricks and motor solution to the increased number of ex-prisoners in the community. The “Constitutional Guarantee” of continued financial support provides important support to that segment of the community that want to develop long term rehabilitation based resources for ex-offenders in the community. We’ll watch closely as Prop. 30 impact counties across the state.