Monday, May 18, 2015

Let's Let People Out of Prison Early and Call It Prison Reform

Today's New York Times has an Op/Ed they have titled "Justice Reform in the Deep South."

 What I believe they are asking for, when it comes down to it, is "justice reform" only if that means less convicts on the prison population rolls.

 The NYT board applauds a bill in Alabama:

  • The bill would cut the state’s prison population of nearly 25,000 by about 4,500 people over the next five years. Sentences for certain nonviolent crimes would be shortened, and more parole supervisors would be hired to help ensure that people coming out of prison don’t return. Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to sign the measure as soon as Tuesday.
 And South Carolina:

  •  Before Alabama, South Carolina passed its own package of reforms in 2010. In February, it closed its second minimum-security prison in a year. Georgia got on board with significant reforms to its adult and juvenile prison systems in 2012 and 2013, including giving judges more leeway to sentence below mandatory minimums and increasing oversight of prisons. 

 And then there's Mississippi:

  •  Of course, all these states had abysmal conditions to start with. Mississippi imprisons more of its citizens per capita than China and Russia combined. That’s worse than any state except Louisiana, which has not yet managed reforms as broad as its neighbors.

There's not a lot of detail on how some of these "reforms" would be made except that many already sentenced prisoners might get early release. Then the states would hire more parole supervisors to watch them once they are out in order to ensure they do not return.

What this means to me is this: the paperwork would show less people in prison, when in reality, they have just been let out to be supervised outside of prison. Is that what we would call real reform? It sounds like the state would just be pushing convicts out in the street and hope they don't mess up their "prisoner tally" paperwork. That, to me, sounds like a recipe for trouble outside of prison......but at least the official prison tally would look better. Right???