Breaking point: Koppel on overcrowding

This Sunday, Ted Koppel presents Breaking Point, a documentary on California’s prison overcrowding problem. It will air on the Discovery Channel at 9pm. From the highlights:

What does the California prison system have in common with Harvard University? It costs precisely as much to house, feed and guard one prisoner for one year in a California state prison as tuition, meals and housing cost for a student enrolled for one academic year at Harvard. As far as California taxpayers are concerned, it gets even worse. Their prison system is so overcrowded that it’s reached a breaking point. Either the state finds a long-term solution or the federal courts have warned they’ll begin ordering the release of inmates, just to ease the crush.

In this two-hour broadcast, Ted Koppel examines how California got to this point and presents an inside view of the crisis through in-depth interviews with inmates, guards and prison officials at California State Prison Solano in Vacaville.

Designed to accommodate no more than 100,000 inmates, California’s prisons now hold 173,000, each at an annual cost of $43,000. How did things get so out of control? Mandatory sentencing is a big part of the answer. When California voters threw their support behind a get-tough-on-crime bill that came to be known as “Three Strikes and You’re Out,” the state prison system filled up and is now overflowing.

You can get the quick facts,  view prison portraits, explore CSP – Solano or watch a video from inside the prison.

Prison overcrowding presents several problems aside from safety and security of staff and inmates. More often than not, overcrowding leads to inmates being forced to sleep in gyms, halls, classrooms and day-rooms. This occupies space reserved for rehabilitative programs. I’m not sure these programs continue or that inmates have recreation areas where they can blow off steam or learn a trade or get an education. It truly is counterproductive.

Hopefully the legislators on Connecticut’s Judiciary Committee will watch this 2-hour program on Sunday.

2 thoughts on “Breaking point: Koppel on overcrowding

  1. Pingback: Solving the revolving door of parole | a public defender

  2. Bruce Larson*Moore

    Project*A.R.C. of Humanity

    The purpose of an A.R.C. is to provide shelter from the storm and deliver its occupants safely to a new life.

    Project*A.R.C. of Humanity, (Abuse Recovery Centers) is a concept which creates a system to reduce and eventually eliminate, prison over crowding and the homeless situation.

    Society has created the perfect storm of abuse, segregation and drugs, casting adrift millions of homeless and criminal parolees into a turmoil of challenges with little or nothing more than leaky life vest.

    The principle of the A.R.C. system is to create general housing facilities, staffed by health and recovery professionals with low level security provided by the Correctional Peace Officers Union. These facilities would house homeless individuals and employ paroled nonviolent offenders as mentor facilitators.

    Paroled offenders would be paid a salary to live and work within the facility, providing a job and further social skills, while giving each a sense of accomplishment, pride and moral stability toward their reestablishment into working society, as they help the homeless lift themselves through abuse recovery.

    The security guard element would draw from the correctional system on a volunteer rotational basis. Salaries would be reduced during this period of service, as it would in affect be a paid vacation compared to service in the prison system. However, retirement benefits and time off incentives would be increased according to time served within the A.R.C. system.

    Suitable large scale facilities already exist and are owned by the people, abandoned military bases. These facilities are designed to be secured, can be put into almost immediate use and are large enough to afford occupation and operation of an Abuse Recovery Center while other sections are being upgraded for future use.

    The cost effectiveness of this initial approach is a win, win, win, providing jobs in depressed areas, while also employing and training the homeless and parolees with new work skills.

    A.R.C. would be applicable within any economic and cultural setting worldwide, as the funding sources are almost completely in place within the prison and social service system, which now is mostly failing to serve society in its present form. Initial startup costs would be incurred by society and private investors, but the short and long term pay back in social stability would be priceless.

    The economy of abuse, segregation and drugs would be broken and replaced by an economy of trust, relationship and moral achievement.

    The A.R.C. system would bring all the small steps of man into one giant and powerful leap for man*kind.

    Building the A.R.C. – “Just do It”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    M.issing – I.gnored – A.bandoned

    Clinging upon the worn edges of social structure, crippled by addiction and neglect, held fast with the grime and malice of their existence, the tortured mass of humanity known collectively as the indigent, shuffles to and fro, amid an indifferent opulence calculated to raise itself at any cost,

    Beneath the sores and blight a pittance of uncertain hope peeks out, cowering before the finger of fate, as it dangles accusingly and smugly toward the certainty of love, hope, suffering and death.

    © Bruce Larson*Moore

    The illusion of success, rolls blindly past the reality of life . . .


    Support your local, Prevention Center for Domestic Abuse, y/our future depends on its success . . .

    It’s time for society to remove the blinders, to start funding and building ARC’s (Abuse Recovery Centers) instead of prisons. It is time to train and employ, non violent, third strike offenders as mentor assistants to help themselves and the homeless assimilate back into productive social behaviors.

    It is time to embrace y/our humanity . . . and conquer our fears.


    Building the A.R.C. of Humanity


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