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The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016

September 12, 2016

The broadcast news headline was “With a new law that makes inmates over 65 eligible for a parole review, Phillip Garrido could be getting out. Stick around to find out how soon.”

A child name Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped and held captive by Phillip Garrido for 18 years, even bearing two children, despite the fact that parole agents visited the already convicted sex offender’s house weekly. The entire justice system failed Jaycee Dugard. First, by releasing a violent sex predator, then by doing a shameful job at keeping an eye on him. At the time, all that “Parole” had to say was that they were reviewing the way they handle their cases. Everyone knows they messed up, and for this reason alone, I believe it’s enough that Phillip Garrido will never again be released.

Just because someone is eligible for a review, it does not mean they are getting out soon. There are requirements, like serving the base sentence and passing a screening for public safety that has high standards. When someone goes to the parole board, it is not a random guessing game. That inmate is seen by a psychiatrist, and probation writes a report. An entire committee questions and scrutinizes their entire life inside and outside of prison.

The broadcast went on to discuss early parole for non-violent second strikers and stated that thousands of inmates are being released early and putting public safety at risk. Again, people are not just being released randomly. One of my cellmates was a non-violent second striker, and he was denied early parole with only four months remaining in his original sentence, because he had only attended one self-help group and had received two rules violation reports.

At the end of the broadcast, the reporter looked gravely into the camera and said, “If voters pass Proposition 57, even more inmates will go free, and prosecutors’ jobs will become more difficult.” In these words, he was saying that inmates who are eligible and actually qualify for release will reoffend, when, in fact, the law is designed to keep that from happening by aiming the focus at non-violent offenders and juveniles, as well as offering more rehabilitative opportunities, especially for these juveniles.

I spent a large chunk of my childhood, starting at 13, in Juvenile Hall, and not once did I go to a self-help group or some sort of therapy session. I left juvi just before my 18th birthday with freshman credits in my high school education. Luckily, despite some of the choices I made, I was an intelligent kid, and it was easy for me to obtain a GED. I meet a lot of young men in here who have been incarcerated since their youth and do not have an education. Just the other day, I was talking with someone who did not even know what import/export was. He thought that companies bought stuff from other countries through catalogues or something.

Proposition 57 aims to offer incentive for those who involve themselves in rehabilitation, like groups, therapy, and education. It would require CDC(R) to effect new parole and credit provisions that would allow inmates to earn credits for participating in these programs. Already inmates can lose credits for breaking rules, but there is no positive reinforcement in place for those who choose to follow the rules and go beyond that with volunteer work.

Proposition 57 is aimed largely at restructuring the system for juveniles, and I personally think that is a great place to start. Prop. 57 is not meant to release random dangerous criminals out into society; in fact, if this proposition passes, it is intended to stop the federal courts from indiscriminately releasing inmates in order to follow a ruling in 2009 that requires CDC(R) to reduce its prison population.

I believe that the implementation of Prop. 57, while there will still be plenty who do not care, will inspire more inmates in their rehabilitation. When I first came to prison in October of 2009, there was absolutely nothing for a lifer to look forward to. Everybody knew that 25 to Life with a chance of parole was no chance at all. Governor Gray Davis released two lifers during his three years in office. It used to be that parole boards did not even approve people, then when the Governor of the state was given veto power over the board’s decision, he blocked the releases.

I spent the first three years of my term in the SHU (Security Housing Unit), fighting, stabbing, cell extracting and keeping misery close, the way I hug my pillow at night. My state of mind has been, “What’s the damn point? nothing I do matters, and at the end of the day, I’m still in a cell.” The only way to deal with the hurt was to make it hurt more, like applying pressure to a wound before it goes numb.

I dug a deep hole for myself when I first started my time, but you’d be surprised (maybe) at how many inmates you could interview who would stay “I spent the first 5 or 10 years of my sentence being a dumb ass, a total fuck up.” A lot of us, only after getting over our own pain, have realized the pain that we’ve caused and are now working on that. The goal that my friends in recovery and I have is to be our best selves, that way, when we get out, we never have to return to this place.

If you live in California and you are going to vote, help pass Proposition 57 by voting “Yes” on the voteballot and give the willing the tools to better themselves and break free of past unhealthy behaviors to become productive members of society again.

It’s time, we really put the R (Rehabilitation) in CDC.

November 8, vote “Yes” on Proposition 57, titled “The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016.”

 

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_57,_Parole_for_Non-Violent_Criminals_and_Juvenile_Court_Trial_Requirements_(2016)

 

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