Pubdate: Thu, 17 June 1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle
Page: A26
Author: Allan Owens

Letters to the Editor


Editor -- Liberal Democrats in Sacramento would do well to stop fighting
Governor Davis on prison building. He is, after all, carrying out the
policies laid down by the conservative Republicans who held sway before
him, and it would be wise to let them take the blame for their own actions.

Because of their get-tough-on-crime posturing, conservatives have created a
situation unprecedented in the so-called "free world," or elsewhere. In an
article entitled "When They Get Out," in this month's Atlantic Monthly, an
expert on prison sentencing is quoted as saying, "The number going through
the system dwarfs that in any other period in U.S. history, and virtually
in any other country as well."

But even with the most draconian of laws, prisoners do eventually get
released. According to the article, 660,000 prisoners will be released
nationwide in 2000, almost 900,000 in 2005, and around 1.2 million in 2010.
Despite recidivism rates and tougher sentencing measures, "there will still
be somewhere around 3.5 million first-time releases between now and 2010,
and America by then will still be releasing from half a million to a
million people from its prisons each year."

Do liberal Democrats really want to take the blame for all of that
alienation and pent-up rage released onto our streets? Let's finish what
the conservative hegemony began and at least furnish space for our current
prisoners. Then, when the deal goes down, the public will understand what
happens when reactionaries, blinded by their own social privilege,
substitute punitive harshness for attention to root causes.

Allan Owens
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