Live: How Should the County Address the Influx of Inmates?

Join the discussion as Patch covers the meeting live as San Mateo County officials host a two-way conversation with local residents.

When Governor Jerry Brown passed a bill that would send “low-level” inmates from state prisons to counties throughout California, residents sent a barrage of outrage to Sacramento.

The US Supreme Court ruled that overcrowding in the state prisons could lead to human rights violations, so the burden was passed to local counties.

At 6:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the County Government Center, San Mateo County how they have been handling the 100 or so transfers to their jails and who these inmates are.

Steve January 10, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Outsource!! Send them to some third-world contractor for $10/ day per inmate. There would be a lot of willing providers and lower crime. Does this violate thier human rights? All the better.
Chris Corbett January 10, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I didn't know we could cuss here?
David Ross January 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The first thing needed is a revamping of the entire "justice" system. Many inmates should not be in prison to begin with. They should be in programs to address their problems such as drugs and alcohol. Prisons need to be more humane to the inmates. Yes, they are there for punishment but that does not give the state permission to treat them as animals. In fact, The guards have complete control over the inmates. If one inmate does something wrong then all inmates are punished. Where's the justice in this?
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan January 10, 2012 at 06:18 PM
This is such a complex issue and I do hope the discussion will remain civil, thoughtful and not devolve into personal attacks as people divulge their personal views on the topic. I do keep in mind that this is an open-ended discussion and one that will likely never have a true end. I agree with the need to maintain a humane environment for the inmates for a number of reasons. One of the many reasons is that some of those inmates will eventually serve out their sentences and be reintroduced into society -- despite our objections or discomfort with it. "People harm others when they have been harmed themselves—by abuse, poverty, trauma—but prison does not address this prior harm. According to Deandra, it only adds a new layer of trauma to that individual, their family, and their community." http://rethinkingschools.org/archive/26_02/26_02_lakshmi2.shtml
David Ross January 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
One thing that needs to be done is the segregation of inmates. I'm not talking racially but type of sentence. There is something wrong when lifers are housed in the same room as low-risk inmates. The lifers are there until they die so they don't care what happens if they cause trouble. Low-risk inmates should have alternative custody sentencing, not prison. This could include GPS monitoring so where they are is always known. They also could be housed in county jail on weekends and be allowed to work during the week to earn money in order to pay restitution. The CDCR needs to update its policies. Currently, when an inmate is sent money to be used at the prison canteen it takes 30 days before the prison credits the inmate with the money, even if it is a money order or cashier's check. They are trying to force people to send money electronically. Good idea? No. You must use a third-party to do this. They charge a fee for the money. That fee could have been money that goes to the inmate. At one prison that I know of inmates are not allowed into the day room when it is foggy outside. What is the logic behind this? It's foggy outside, not inside the day room. The inmates do not go outside to get to the day room from their rooms. When vistiing inmates, visitors must purchase food for the visit from overpriced vending machines. One prison I visit was charging $6 for two ears of corn and two pats of butter!
Buck Shaw January 11, 2012 at 07:31 PM
We used to call inmates "Out Laws" because they chose to live Outside the Law. It appears that most people making comments don't believe it was there (the law breakers) choice. That the decision to live outside the law was made by others. Abuse,poverty, trauma. You are certainly a defense lawyers dream for Jury selection. So if its not there fault. Why put them there at all.
Stacie Chan (Editor) January 11, 2012 at 07:49 PM
@David: several people at last night's town hall meeting agreed with you. They wanted more of the funding to go towards re-entry programs, such as job training, mental health services, etc. Segregation is also a very valid point. You should definitely comment on the draft plan when it is available Feb. 3! @Buck: Your bringing up language is very interesting. It's not completely related, but I found out that the current term used for former inmates is "formerly incarcerated," and not "ex-offenders." Once these people have served their time, it's very difficult for them to re-integrate into society and these labels make their transition even harder. This is the term they prefer.
David Ross January 11, 2012 at 07:55 PM
There two terms are not synonymous. An outlaw is one who breaks the law. An inmate is an outlaw that is in prison or jail. Not all outlaws should be in prison for their wrong doing. The name of the department is CORRECTIONS and REHABILITATION. The CDCR does neither of these for most, if not the majority, of inmates. An example: An embezzler is sentenced to prison AND is required to pay restitution. It doesn't make sense to send her to prison because she is non-violent and not a flight risk. It would be better for her to be in home arrest with the ability to go to a job in order to earn money to pay restitution. In prison, it's impossible for her to pay restitution of any meaningful amount when she can earn a maximum of about $1.50 an hour while working at the prison. Another example: A person is in prison due to possession of 10 ounces of marijuana. He had no intent of selling. Yet he's in prison. Is that rehabilitation? No. First of all he shouldn't be there because of marijuana possession. He hasn't committed any other crime. But the government has decided that possession and use of marijuana is illegal so they put him in prison. Where's the justice in that?
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan January 11, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Thanks, David, for the information and data you are providing to support your statements. As I stated before, "This is such a complex issue and I do hope the discussion will remain civil, thoughtful and not devolve into personal attacks as people divulge their personal views on the topic. I do keep in mind that this is an open-ended discussion and one that will likely never have a true end." Mr. Shaw, your comments are quite thought-provoking. The brief comments I have made here do not speak to my views on the topic as a whole. I was addressing - briefly - one aspect of the topic of incarceration. "That the decision to live outside the law was made by others." did get me thinking about how certain 'decisions' citizens make are criminalized. Anti-miscegenation laws are just one example of what came to mind and the Supreme Court deemed those unconstitutional. Racial segregation in the United States made outlaws of its own people at one point in history itself. Citizens could be criminalized for attempting to make use of facilities, services, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation simply because they were non-White. The Black Codes restricted civil rights and civil liberties. Again, these are just the random thoughts that come into play when reading other comments. Working with someone whose focus was Criminal Justice has really allowed me to view the topic from various angles which can't be covered in a mere 1500 characters.
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan January 11, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Stacie, language is a powerful force in our society. One example is the use of "undocumented" versus "illegal" to shape the debate of immigration. http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2009/12/sotomayor-s-undocumented-immigrant-supreme-court-first/
David Ross January 11, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I don't think anyone should rush into judgement about why people, especially women, are in prison. Many women in prison are 2x victims: they were abuse victims who got punished for trying to help save their lives. Then they are victimized once again when they are place in prison. Real world example: A woman I know was being abused by her boyfriend. The only way she knew how to stop him from abusing her was to give him money for his gun and motorcycle collections. She stole the money from her company. She knew of no other way of getting help. She went to prison. She is suppose to pay restitution (which she wants to do to make it right). He wasn't punished. What can be learned from this? 1. All of the money on advertising abused women programs is not working. Too many women are falling through the cracks because they don't know about the programs. 2. An bully can abuse a woman and get away with it. 3. If the almighty dollar is involved and the person is poor then she goes to prison. 4. Restitution must be paid but how can restitution be made if the person is locked up in prison? Many people I know personally and know of realize that this is stupid. There is no reason for this person to be in prison. Even prison guards state this. Yet the system, through DA's that want to appear (not be but only appear) to be tough on crime are sending people to prison who do not belong there. 4.
Gabriela Segovia-McGahan January 11, 2012 at 09:04 PM
David, your post about outlaws got me thinking of this organization: http://www.gems-girls.org/get-involved/very-young-girls Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) is the only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS was founded in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd, a young woman who had been commercially sexually exploited as a teenager. GEMS has helped hundreds of young women and girls, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and to develop to their full potential. GEMS provides young women with empathetic, consistent support and viable opportunities for positive change. In 2010, GEMS provided counseling, job training, access to health care and crisis housing to more than 328 young women and provided outreach to more than 1,000 youth. GEMS also provides a continuum of services and programs, including youth-led facility outreach, Street Outreach, COURT ADVOCACY AND ALTERNATIVES TO INCARCERATION PROGRAM, Case Management, Education, Recreational and Therapeutic Groups, Youth Employment and Leadership Training, Transitional & Crisis Housing, and Referral Services. ============================================================== Prostitution can put you in jail but what if you are 11 years old and it wasn't your choice to be sexually exploited in the first place?
Buck Shaw January 11, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I understand completely. One can only make short brief points on such a big topic. Like my answer to the gentleman about "Debters Prison" as far as I know the debt follows the person out after there sentence in prison is up. Second, On the Marijuana issue I'm in your court. Pun not intended. Any thing recommended by the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Society and Legislator Hiyashi must after all that backing be a good thing. Although I'm not sure if they recommend smoking it as the best way to ease pain. Three cheers for Medical Marijuana.
David Ross January 11, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Restitution does follow the person for the rest of her life. Declaring bankruptcy does not stop it. Prisons are definitely not a place for white color criminals. If you area a drug addict or alcoholic then you can attend NA or AA respectively. If you are neither then the number of self-help programs available is drastically reduced. While I'm opposed to just adding laws for this and that, one law that needs to be enacted is a law to hold judges accountable. Currently, in the state of California, judges are not held accountable for their judgements. As a result, there are many people being imprisoned because the judge makes a mistake.
Pretty Asian... January 11, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Our loving Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ came not for the righteous but for the unrighteous.
David Ross January 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM
He did. Christian organizations are really helping inmates. At Valley State Prison for Women, there more often than not a line to get into Church services. Sadly, too many inmates are turned away from the services due to lack of room. Inmates that attend Church services seem to be better behaved than those that don't.
Marilyn Caldero January 12, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Poster Steve seems to have a problem with the Constitution. Almost all prisoners will be released at some point. We are safer if they are treated humanely rather than like junk yard dogs and they are more likely to become responsible citizens.
Marilyn Caldero January 12, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Thank you for pointing out that labels make transition to the "outside" even harder. Let's BAN THE BOX on employment, rental, and government forms that must be checked by the "formerly incarcerated" even if they have been crime free for decades. Some government agencies have rules against hiring them even for non-security related jobs and jobs that do not involve children. I suppose too many do not believe Bible stories of redemption. The Prodigal Son and The Thief on the Cross are two examples.
Marilyn Caldero January 12, 2012 at 05:23 AM
The failing criminal justice and incarcerated do need an overhaul. The Supreme Court upheld the Constitution and California must reduce the number of prisoners it packs in like cattle at feedlots. California's prison crisis adversely affects every Californian. Our children's education and infrastructure repair money is being spent on criminal justice and incarceration practices that do not make us safer, but do reduce the quality of life in California.
David Ross January 12, 2012 at 05:45 AM
The health care in the prisons is worse than 3rd world countries. At Valley State Prison for Women, if you get a cavity the "dentist" wants to pull it rather than fill it. One dentist broke the jaw of a woman under his care. She was in great pain for many days. I know of one inmate there who had her finger crushed in an accident. It took over 24 hours before she got proper care. If you need medicine such as Tylenol at VSPW, you'll get it easier if you are drug dependent than if you aren't. If you are within 90 days of the gate (i.e. being released) then the care goes down even more. One woman I know has an eye problem. She can't see out of it. Yet the prison won't give her eye any attention because she's within 90 days of leaving. (Hopefully within 90 days. The records at VSPW are so screwed up that many inmates are serving extra time. One woman was literally just a few hours from being released when they told her she had to serve another 5 years. She didn't - her crime entitled her to 1/2 time yet the prison was saying she had to serve 85% of her time.) I'm unemployed. I've never been incarcerated. Still, I am getting tired of seeing that box on job applications that asks if I've been in prison. One of the main reasons why so many people go back to jail is that we have employers who want hire people who have done their time and just want to become a productive member of society. Why do they have to keep punishing a person who has already completed his/her time?
Chris Corbett January 12, 2012 at 08:44 AM
How is it you know so much about prisons? I was a Pelican Bay "scared straight" assistant for a year, and that was the scariest place on Earth!
David Ross January 12, 2012 at 03:49 PM
If you're referring to me it's because my girlfriend is in VSPW.
Chris Corbett January 12, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Oh, thanks, Dave! Sorry about your significant other! Hope she gets out soon...
David Ross January 12, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thank you, Chris. She is suppose to get out next month but as I mentioned in another posting, the records are very screwed up at VSPW. They say that my significant other didn't start her sentence until about 5-6 weeks after she had actually started it all because they can't read a simple sentence in English. I've read that if an inmate is let out after her release date then the state, by law, must pay her $150 for each day she is held beyond her release date. You would think this would be an incentive to keep the records straight but it isn't. After all, it isn't there money they are spending; it's the taxpayers' money.
Pretty Asian... January 13, 2012 at 04:49 AM
when we visited a friend, behind bars, to personally greet him a happy birthday and to give him his fave food, I was harassed by male inmates as they showed some lewd gestures! Good thing I was in a company of good friends!! That was a close encounter. So, invite your friends over when planning to visit one.
Chris Corbett January 13, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Marilyn Caldero January 15, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Pretty Asian, I am sorry you had that experience. I have never seen anything like that happen to anyone even though I have visited several prisons over many years. Visits are normally too precious to prisoners for them to misbehave and risk losing their visits. Guards are usually respectful (never emphatic) but sometimes they treat visitors as if they are criminals. Because of the horrific overcrowding and confusing rules that are not explained visiting is very stressful. It is prohibitively expensive for many families who often come from a distance and whose breadwinner is incarcerated. I hope you will containing visiting. Prisoners are far more likely to survive prison if they have support from family. That not only saves salvageable lives but also a lot of tax dollars.
David Ross January 15, 2012 at 05:18 AM
I deeply believe that the top two things that inmates crave are visitors and mail. What's sad is that, at least with women inmates, so few get visitors. Many don't get mail either. My girlfriend is in VSPW. Even though she's in many programs and is working, she still looks forward to mail call and visits. I believe that the inmates that cause the least amount of trouble are the ones who regularly receive mail and/or visitors. It helps them to realize that there are people on the outside who do care for them. Please don't let a few inmates discourage you from visiting. Your visit means a lot to your friend.


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