Experts Warn 44 Percent Cut to Prison Rehabilitation Imminent, Will Increase Costs and Recidivism

Press Release December 8, 2009
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at (213) 291 4190

SACRAMENTO — At the Capitol yesterday, both the Assembly and Senate held hearings focused on the state’s plan to cut rehabilitation spending nearly in half in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The Drug Policy Alliance praised Sen. Carol Liu and Asm. Juan Arambula for convening the hearings and shining a light on the 44 percent cut, and called on the Legislature to go further to rein in corrections spending immediately.

“The kicker is that, while the rehab budget gets halved, corrections is actually on pace to spend 10 percent more overall in 2009 than it did last year. And we all know that cutting rehab isn’t good for safety behind bars or in the community, nor is it a cost-saving move in the long-term,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in Southern California. “Rehab is the wrong place to cut. We’ve got to reduce costs by re-thinking who we’re sending to do time in state prison — and what they’re doing while they’re there.”

The Legislature and governor approved $1.2 billion in unallocated cuts to the CDCR in late July. In October, the CDCR announced it would make $280 million in cuts to rehabilitation programs for inmates and parolees, including shortening in-custody drug treatment to three months (from 6-36 months) and laying off as many as 800 teachers, librarians, counselors and other program staff. Dozens of them attended the hearings in Sacramento yesterday. Rehabilitation spending behind bars was cut 70 percent and parolee services were cut 40 percent, according to the CDCR.

“California spends over $500 million a year to lock people up for nothing more than personal possession of an illicit drug. This is insanity and it’s time to have a serious discussion about smarter public safety policy and smarter spending. We are not going to make California safer by cutting funding for education, drug treatment and vocational training behind bars. Sacramento is suggesting that we can have either public safety or rehabilitation programs, when in fact these things are inseparable,” Dooley-Sammuli continued.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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