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Old 05-03-2005, 01:30 PM
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Default Opinon Editorial:Lawmakers push for reforming penal system

Lawmakers push for reforming penal system
At Issue:


Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - Reforming the state's prison system.



Link to Article

Our Opinion: It's taken enough time, but lawmakers now appear ready to tackle the state's Department of Corrections.

At long last, prison reform in California is on the front burner. Just this week the state Assembly followed the Senate in signing off on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to overhaul California's deeply troubled youth and adult penal systems.

For too long, the state's Department of Corrections has been mired in mismanagement.

It is amazing that the system has been allowed to fester for as long as it has.

We commend the governor for taking the first step toward reform. Senate Bill 737 will centralize correctional authority under the governor's Cabinet-level correctional secretary, beginning July 1.

The governor's plan was not without controversy.

Originally the proposal would have placed youth operations below the chief deputy in charge of corrections. After complaints that the old CYA was being downgraded in importance, a compromise was reached which gave youth operations equal standing on the managerial flow chart with the adult system.

Now the two systems will become one, under the moniker of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

We hope that the overhaul lives up to its promise and that rehabilitation is not just part of the name, but an actual philosophy.

Frankly, if penal institutions are only about punishment without rehabilitation, we might as well continue building prisons.

Money invested in rehabilitation is money invested in California's future. Inmates who are released must have some hope of becoming contributing members of society, or they will stay behind bars forever.

Not that a name change will make the difference. A shakeup in the system's organization is significant, but its ripples must be felt all the way down to be effective.

During this time of change, it is essential that we not avert our eyes from the problems. We must continue to monitor the progress or failures of the overhaul. In addition, the governor and corrections authorities need to establish the buy-in from an essential sector: The employees.

That is why it was disappointing to read a comment from Lance Corcoran, vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, who dismissed the reform effort as merely "a rearrangement of the deck chairs."

We understand that change can be scary, and true reform takes time and commitment. Maybe the shakeup will work, maybe it won't. But it is the first vital step. And it is in everyone's best interests that these initial steps be just the start of a long journey toward reform.
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