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Steinberg: Addressing Mental Health Can Reduce Prison Overcrowding

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.

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