Sunday, March 23, 2008

Department of Corrections

This mornings papers and radio news is covering the "return" of former SLA radical Sara Jane Olson to a California prison just days after her release following six years in prison. According to the Department of Corrections they made a mistake in calculating her sentence back in 2004, and she really needs to serve an additional year, with release now scheduled for March 17, 2009. According to the SFChron coverage by Carolyn Jones and Bob Egelko

"The department is sensitive to the effects this has had. The department sincerely regrets the mistake," said Alberto Roldan, chief deputy general counsel for the Department of Corrections.

California's massive and catastrophically poorly managed prison bureaucracy (read many of the previous posts on this blog concerning California's prison crisis) is now actually called the "Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation" in testament to Governor Schwarzenegger's original zeal to try to alter the state's policies of warehousing people in prisons. However the Sara Jane Olson story gives new meaning to the department's "correctional" mission. Can an agency incapable of calculating a determinate sentence (fixed term, minus time reductions for good behavior at a fixed rate) undertake anything as complicated as trying to rehabilitate prisoners damaged by life times of child abuse, educational failure, poor lifestyle choices, and chronic bad health? Indeed can an agency incapable of calculating such a sentence undertake to safely house, feed, and care for nearly 170,000 adult human beings?

The answer to both questions is clearly no.

The sad truth is the Department, swaddled in the state's tough punishment at any cost political philosophy, has not been held accountable for any kind of performance objectives for so long that it has created a chronic culture of incompetence that could well explain this sad mistake and may account for thousands of unreported or undiscovered errors (shall we do an audit now and at least figure out who we are holding past their release date?).

It is also certain that this "mistake" was discovered because of the extraordinary pressure placed by the law enforcement community (cops, DAs, COs), by far in a way the most powerful and privileged special interest group in the state. Law enforcement has long viewed the state's prisons and execution chamber as a special zone for their personal vengeance against those among the mass imprisoned hordes, mostly characterized by luckless incompetence, whose crimes have personally affected members of that community.

1 comment:

RacyKacy said...

How mistakes like this is permitted to happen is beyond me