Cascade Effect: California's Prison Release Program

But now they tell us we have too many people in jail. So uncivilized, don’t you know, and so expensive to keep them there. So now we’ll be letting them out while we comfort ourselves with the illusion that they’ll be “supervised” in a probation system that can’t adequately mind the caseload it already has. Steve Cooley didn’t need a crystal ball to make his prediction; any fool can see what’s coming.

In some parts of Los Angeles the tide has already turned. Crime continues to fall on a city-wide basis, with murders down 4.5 percent from a year ago and overall violent crime down 7.8 percent. But so far this year, eleven of the LAPD’s 21 patrol divisions have seen increases in murders, with some areas up more than 50 percent. In Pacific Division, for example, which covers Venice and the area surrounding L.A.’s airport, there was but one murder as of Sept. 24, 2010. This year there have been six. In Harbor Division, which covers L.A.’s port area, there had been 13 murders as of this time last year; this year there have been 21. Even some of the relatively tamer districts of the San Fernando Valley have seen marked increases in murders. In Devonshire Division, consistently one of the least violent areas of the city, murders have gone from two to six on a year-to-date basis.

And those numbers will get worse before they get better. As murders and other violent crime increases, the resources needed to combat the surge will be further and further stretched, allowing many criminals to go undetected and undeterred until, as was the case twenty years ago, people decide they’ve had enough and demand their elected officials do something about it.

Yes, it’s expensive to keep people in prison, but Californians will one day discover – or rediscover – it can be even more expensive to let them out.

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