parolees and probationers must find work in a relatively
short time (usually 30 days, although many aren’t released
until they can prove they have work). But the biggest
Angeles County has is who will supervise these newly released ex-offenders.
Los Angeles County Probation Department is under massive
scrutiny because of its failures to properly supervise
ex-offenders. So instead of overhauling the department,
L.A. County is considering another solution:
allowing the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department to
supervise parolees. The state legislature thinks it’s
a good idea because they can save some money in the cash-strapped
budget. Did the hair just stand up on your neck (like
it did mine when I first heard this)? It should’ve. This
is unprecedented and the first step to us being a police
state. It sounds like a “common sense” solution but is
full of constitutional conflicts.
done, Los Angeles would be the first county in the nation to do this. No
other county in California,
and no other county in the nation has done this or is
doing this. There is a reason there’s a wall between law
enforcement, the Courts and the Justice Department. The
very people who sent many of these parolees away, some
under very suspicious - even false circumstances - would
be asked to supervise their release and rehabilitation.
I can imagine sitting across the desk from the officer
that arrested me (or his buddy) and sent me away, and
having a great deal of confidence that the system that
may have compromised me once is poised to do it again.
police think someone who has broken the law once can’t
change, even after it’s been proven time and time again
that people can change for the better and turn their lives
around, police are the last ones to give you that benefit
of the doubt. Not coming out of prison - their biases
and suspicions are too high.
also opens another door of possible collusion; judges,
prosecutors and law enforcement officers already have
a cozy, near incestuous relationship. One arrests, one
is the trier of fact that determines guilt; the last is
the determiner of penalty. Once law enforcement and criminal
justice are out of the picture, the state (or federal)
prison systems hold you until your have “paid your debt.”
Federal or state probations are supposed to evaluate one
without bias on their re-entry and re-assimilation into
society. I’m not convinced law enforcement could be that
California didn’t get into this predicament overnight.
The state made a concentrated effort to divest in education
and invest in prisons, as its primary measure of social
control. Don’t educate them. Lock ’em up and re-lock them
when they get out.
2006, then Governor Arnold Schwrazenegger warned that
the state’s prison system was in crisis, as state recidivism
was an alarming 70%, meaning nearly three out of four
released inmates return to prison. That is (still) the
highest in the nation. If the United
States of America is a “prison nation”
with more than 2 million people imprisoned, California
is the prison nation’s “capitol state.” California
is the nation’s largest jailer with nearly 180,000 prisoners
in its statewide corrections system, a system that only
has some 80,000 plus beds.
prison industrial complex thrives in California,
having built 22 new prisons since 1985 while only building
ONE new state university. The prison officer’s union has
become one of the most powerful in the state and those
employed at California
prisons are amongst the best compensated in the nation.
My point here is that there was plenty of incentive to
overcrowd, even when California didn’t have the money to operate all the prisons it built.
60% of California inmates are in prison for non-violent
offenses, and California death row inmates have the longest
appeal process in the nation (nearly 23 years is the average
death row inmate’s stay). The Texas
death row appeal process is less than three years.
California’s statewide prison budget is larger than
its education budget. Arnold
called that out on his way out the door, but did little
to reverse the trend. He was going to let inmates out
of prison and he wasn’t going against the prison guard
lobby. So the courts had to do what the state refused
to do - prisoners do have some rights, as few as they
are. But now we are forced into a “situation” whereby
the poor and disenfranchised are poised to be victimized
Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca, is a compassionate,
reasonable man who has proven that he can barely make
a dent into the abusive culture of his department. And
he won’t be there forever; more the reason not to do it.
I believe both the prisoners and the citizens would have
a constitution challenge if the Board of Supervisors carry
this out. It violates both the rights of the accused AND
the rights of society.
Los Angeles County’s best
option is to overhaul the Probation Department. Put it
in receivership like they did the Health Department and
Children & Family Services. But don’t give it to the
Sheriffs Department. Parolee supervision will then become
just another blurred line of abused authority.
Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist,
managing director of the
Urban Issues Forum
and author of
Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click
to contact Dr. Samad.