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Reducing the cost of prisons

August 22, 2009

Re "Help the prisons, help the budget," Opinion, Aug. 18

The impending need for California to overhaul its prison system provides an opportunity to reduce its strain on the state's budget.

However, rather than releasing dangerous inmates early from prison, lawmakers should look to other methods of reducing prison costs. One primary area is the Department of Juvenile Justice, where expenditures have gone up nearly $150 million in the last four years while the inmate population has decreased by half.

Our state has six Youth Authority camps designed to house juvenile inmates, but current numbers show that keeping just two of these facilities would still allow this program to function properly.

California also continues to dump funding into a broken rehabilitation program that has failed to significantly reduce the recidivism rate among our most dangerous criminals.

I hope my fellow legislators and I can find a workable solution without allowing federal courts to dictate state policy or endangering our communities.

George Runner

Lancaster

The writer is the state senator for District 17.

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Jamie Fellner makes the humanitarian and economic case for reducing the California prison population by 40,000 inmates, noting the political angst about how to do this.

As The Times has noted, about 11% of convicts in state prison, or about 19,000, are illegal aliens subject to summary deportation upon release.

What is so hard about sending these folks back to their homelands and saving money for each one deported?

The balance of the ordered reduction could then certainly be identified from among nonviolent offenders who have served perhaps half or more of their prescribed sentences.

John Bowen

Goleta, Calif.

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