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Steinberg: Addressing Mental Health Can Reduce Prison Overcrowding

Aired 5/8/13 on KPBS News.

California Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg is proposing several measures intended to increase crisis access to mental health services.

California Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg is proposing several measures intended to increase crisis access to mental health services.

He's billing the package as a plan that would deal with overcrowding in state prisons and county jails by reducing the state's 70 percent recidivism rate. That's the rate at which paroled offenders commit new crimes.

"The vast majority of people who enter county jail or state prison are going to leave. And they're going to become part of our communities again," Steinberg said. "The question for us is are we going to do everything we can - that is reasonable, that is cost-effective, that is consistent with public safety - to ensure they don't go back?"

Steinberg's proposals include more crisis treatment beds and rapid-response resources, assistance with Medi-Cal enrollment, and expanding a pilot program that helps mentally ill parolees.

But the senator acknowledged his proposals are likely too long-term to satisfy a federal court order to reduce the state's prison population.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 8, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

An overlooked priority.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 8, 2013 at 2:38 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

I have been following this prison controversy lately, and I find it funny just how skewed "normal" is to mainstream American politicians and the public.

The United States IS the world's prison state.

Not China, not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

We have, by far, a larger percentage of our population locked up than any other country on earth, including the before mentioned nations that Americans often accuse of being tyrannical prison states.

It's estimated that 1 in 32 Americans will, at some point in their lives, be serving some sort of government criminal sentence (i.e. jail, prison, or probation).

This isn't normal.

But, it has become the normal in our nation today.

Despite the horrendously high amount of money we spend to imprison such a large percentage of our own people, crime statistics show no benefit.

Now let's circle back to what's happening in California today.

A court is (and rightfully so) telling California that if we are going to imprison so many people, we have to do so in a way that still upholds basic human rights such as healthcare, sanitation, and no extremely dangerous overcrowding.

Instead of heeding this court decision as a chance to look at our laws and change some of these ridiculous "minimum sentencing" guidelines and laws that lock up non-violent offenders, politicians are playing the fear card and claiming the court is jeopardizing public safety.

As a Democrat and former Brown supporter, I have been disgusted with the way our governor has handled this.

Why can't any of these idiots admit we have too many people locked up?

Instead they fight court findings that are trying to protect against mistreatment of prisoners, something the U.S. is all too willing to scold OTHER countries about.

If it were up to many politicians and many in the public, prisons in America would be allowed to operate like the garment buildings in Bangladesh that are crumbling and killing people.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 8, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 2 months ago

KPBS needs to follow the money.

Brown has been so resistant to the court’s findings, let's have a look at how HE is profiting - either politically or economically - from California's gigantic prison-industrial complex.

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