Friday, December 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Let sick, elderly convicts go

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | February 04, 2014 |

Sometimes it can take more than a decade for a completely sensible idea to catch on. So it is with what may be the single best money-saving idea in the inventive preliminary budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in early January.

That idea, part of a Brown plan to appease a panel of federal judges, calls for the possible parole of several thousand convicts who are sick or mentally impaired, plus a new parole program for elderly prisoners. This is spurred by the judges’ demand for even more releases of state prison inmates than the 22,000-plus already returned to their counties.

But it’s an idea first proposed to this column in 2002 by reader Ray Procunier, then a Grass Valley resident. Procunier, who died two years ago at age 86, was director of corrections in California under Gov. Ronald Reagan and during part of Brown’s first term in the 1970s. He also headed the prison systems of Texas and Utah.

“When Reagan was governor, we cut the prison population by one-third and there was no increase in crime, not even a blip,” he said 11 years ago, responding to a column. “I guarantee I could cut down today’s prison population by 100,000 or more and not hurt a soul in the process.”

Among his chief suggestions was the wholesale parole of prisoners over age 55, regardless of the three-strikes law or their specific sentences. He would have kept murderers, rapists and other serious sex offenders behind bars unless they had serious chronic illnesses. These tactics alone, Procunier said, would cut prison costs by more than $4 billion — equivalent to at least $5 billion in today’s dollars.

Now that Brown has made almost exactly the same idea a central point of his plan to comply with the court ruling on prison crowding, one big question is why it took so long for this idea to percolate to the surface. The most likely answer is inertia, along with a fear component, as no politician ever wants to appear soft on crime.

That proclivity also helped produce three-strikes, which increased the state’s prison population from about 25,000 in 1980 to 170,000-plus in 2008. It took the court order to cut that down a bit.

So far, as Procunier predicted, there has been no significant statewide crime increase as a result of the early paroles. Releasing the sick and elderly likely would have a similar negligible impact.

That’s because national criminal statistics show most violent crimes are committed by people in their teens, 20s and 30s, and very few by people age 55 or older. At the same time, the cost of maintaining hospitalized inmates ranges between $68,000 and $125,000 per year, depending on where they are treated. That’s significantly more than the average annual cost of about $47,000 for the typical healthy convict.

So far, 15 other states acting on this kind of information have begun expediting release of elderly prisoners, who can use pensions, savings, Social Security, welfare or the resources of relatives to cover expenses outside custody. Most ill inmates released early can be covered almost immediately by Medi-Cal under Obamacare, while the state gains not only prison space, but also can stop posting guards in each of their hospital rooms around the clock, required for prisoners hospitalized outside the prison system.

That’s why the new Brown plan makes so much sense, both as a means of helping comply with the court order and saving many millions, perhaps billions, of prison dollars. Too bad other California governors didn’t have the good sense to do this many years ago, when Procunier first suggested it.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

.

News

UCD, UC team up to study effects of climate change

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Teens’ goal? Helping other soccer players around the world

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Konditorei presents free holiday concert

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Welcome 2015 with Mumbo Gumbo at a gala bash

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Luminaria display planned in West Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Creative women share food, friendship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Blue Christmas service planned at Davis churches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Willett bench is a labor of love

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

Author! Author! UCD hosts talks, Q and A on Asia-focused books

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
See diving ducks at city wetlands tour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Libraries will be closed around the holidays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Downtown gift cards get a new perk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

 
Nobel Prize winner will discuss research related to autism

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

A home for the holidays?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Explorit: Experience nano this spring

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Supplies collected for victims of abuse

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Grandmothers support group meets weekly

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Forum

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

 
Cheers and Jeers: Have you ever seen the rain?

By Our View | From Page: A14

Defeating Ebola involves medicine, and prayers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14 | Gallery

 
Kudos to Central Park Gardens donors and volunteers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

.

Sports

Lady Blue Devils rout an undefeated Liberty squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
UCD RB coach Wright heads to Florida; what next?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Aggies nab junior college defensive lineman

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Cousins is back in lineup but Kings fall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devil boys hold off scrappy Rio Linda

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Nostra-Dunning makes his 2014 bowl picks

By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

Tennyson’s first goal is the difference in Sharks win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
.

Features

Name droppers: Trio elected to academy of inventors

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Arts

 
DMTC announces auditions for ‘Sweeney Todd’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
‘Before Midnight’ screening is tonight

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
DMTC plans New Year’s Eve party

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

Tom Rigney and Flambeau to play

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
.

Business

After 19 years, Alfa Romeo returns

By Ann M. Job | From Page: A16

 
.

Obituaries

Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Comics