“The challenges of ‘realignment’: California’s Overcrowded Prisons” @ The Economist

Posted on May 24, 2012

May 19, 2012: “JERRY BROWN can point to only one clear policy achievement since he became governor of California again last year. It has nothing to do with California’s ongoing fiscal crisis, which Mr Brown has so far failed to solve: this week he announced that a budget deficit he had previously estimated at $9 billion has swelled to almost $16 billion. Instead, it concerns the equally pressing disaster in the state’s prisons. Mr Brown’s sweeping reform, if it goes as planned, might alleviate this crisis and become a model for other states. But it is risky.

Excessive incarceration is an American problem. The country has about 5% of the world’s population but almost 25% of its prisoners, with the world’s largest number of inmates and highest per capita rate of incarceration. California eagerly participated in this trend of locking up ever more people. During Mr Brown’s previous stint as governor in the 1970s the state switched to more inflexible sentencing. It then spent another two decades adding “tough-on-crime” laws that kept extending sentences even for minor crimes………………………………………”

Read more at The Economist.