Counties Hoard Prison Rehab Funding, Few Inmates Helped

Two years ago the US Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison overcrowding, which had reached the point of unconstitutional “cruel and unusual punishment”. The state then released numerous low-level offenders and granted funding to county officials to run rehab programs for the probationers. The only problem, according to this article in the Sacramento News & Review, is that the counties actually hoard the state dollars instead of directing it toward non-state-sponsored rehab programs with a proven track record. Probationers wind up in a revolving door of re-arrests for petty offenses, because the high recidivism rate helps the county argue that it needs more state funding for probation officers and jails. From the article:

Tim Gene Sanders is about to get busted for possessing a saltshaker.

It’s February 2011, and Sanders is on his way home from a community center in Citrus Heights. He hangs a left on Auburn Boulevard when a patrol cruiser pulls him up short for making an unsafe lane change. The hangdog ex-con with the rebel-cool hair knows the drill. He’s on probation, so the cops get to toss his vehicle. Inside, they find a saltshaker and an empty sandwich bag. Sanders was snacking on hard-boiled eggs, but Citrus Heights’ finest assume the white granules at the bottom of the shaker are meth.

By the time the charges are dropped, the damage is done. Sanders spends 19 days in county jail and loses his car to a prohibitive impound fee. His house goes next.

“That’s the system,” Sanders says. “That’s how the system works.”

He would know. He got out of Sacramento County Main Jail only days ago for taking Tylenol with codeine No. 3. The pain meds—prescribed by a doctor after Sanders got out of the clink and hoofed it 10 miles on arthritic hips to his car—made it appear there was heroin in his system. Before that, Sanders went to jail for seeing the doctor instead of his parole officer.

Read the full story here.

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