REHABS = CONVICTED FELONS
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Monday, May 7, 2007
Today's editorial: Coming to a neighborhood near you
Thousands of soon-to-be-released convicts will complete their time in community facilities
An Orange County Register editorial
The general public may have had little interest so far in the prison overcrowding crisis
that culminated last week with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signing a $7.7 billion bond
measure to build 53,000 new prison and jail beds.
The next phase of this unfolding drama, however, is likely to capture greater public
attention as communities wrestle with one of the legislation's provisions – the creation of
16,000 so-called "reentry beds," ideally to be located in the home communities of
prisoners serving the last year of their prison sentences.
Californians are about to have rehabilitation theory tested in real-life laboratories: their
own communities. How many communities will be willing partners remains to be seen.
Prepare to hear a lot of, "Not in my back yard!" protests, whether it's an expansion of a
local jail, such as Orange County's James A. Musick Facility, or a new public or privately
built and operated facility. It's fair to ask, "Who wants new prison cells in their
Rehabilitation theory contends that the reentry facilities will better enable prisoners to
acclimate to the communities to which they ultimately will return by providing counseling
and training by the same local providers they will continue to see once released.
Continuity, according to the theory, should smooth the transition to civilian life, and
reduce the state's 70 percent recidivism rate among ex-convicts.
In a conference call with newspaper editorial writers last Thursday, administrative officials,
including Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation chief James Tilton, touted the
warm reception for reentry facilities already expressed by some local communities.
But it's one thing for police and local elected officials to be receptive, as many are said to
be. It's even understandable that the idea would be received favorably by community
service providers, such as drug counselors and job trainers, who stand to profit by
gaining more clients. But these represent only a small segment of the voices likely to
chime in once it's clear thousands of felony convicts are moving into local neighborhoods.
"That's the next major policy discussion in the state: How are we going to allocate the
programs?" Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, told us in an interview Friday. "We left
it open for counties to compete for these programs. If there isn't support for this, they
won't get the money and they won't get the facilities. But then when those inmates come
back … they will be different inmates than those getting the treatment" in reentry facilities.
Mr. Spitzer acknowledged that "[p]eople will say, 'Hell no, and no way'." But prisoners who
have served their sentences will return to the laboratory that is the community. Mr.
Spitzer, like those in the governor's administration, hopes communities see that accepting
local reentry facilities can return to the community ex-convicts who are more likely to find
and hold jobs, to turn from lives of crime and to gain control over their anger and drug
problems. It promises to be a grand experiment.
|Coming to a neighborhood near you...
OC Register, May 7, 2007