|Photo: Drug War Chronicle|
|Overcrowding at Mule Creek State Prison, Ione, California|
Advocates Urge Ending Prison As A Response To Drug Use
The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the unconstitutional conditions of California’s prisons were caused primarily by overcrowding, and ordered California to reduce its prison population from more than 200 percent of design capacity to 137.5 percent of capacity within two years.
“The U.S. Supreme Court was right to uphold the order to reduce California’s prison population,” said Theshia Naidoo, staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Tough-on-crime policies have crowded prisons so severely with people convicted of nonviolent offenses, including drug possession, that they are not only unsafe and overly costly, but also a net negative for public safety.”
“To end prison overcrowding, California must reserve prison for serious offenses and that requires sentencing reform,” Naidoo said. “Even minor changes to sentencing laws could reap major rewards.
“By reducing the penalty for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, for example, the state would save $450 million a year and reduce the prison population by more than 9,000.
“We urge California to take the logical step of ending incarceration as a response to drug possession, while expanding opportunities for drug treatment in the community,” Naidoo said.
According to DPA, the 9,000 inmates in California’s prison system for drug possession cost the state $450 million a year.