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Bad Times For Good Programs

Publication Date: 
June 01, 2009
California Lawyer
Cameron Scott

Professors Joan Petersilia and Robert Weisberg are quoted in California Lawyer Magazine in an article about how the California budget crisis is affecting community-based detention programs:

Given the state's huge budget deficit and the prison-crowding crisis, community-based detention programs might seem to be just what's called for: They cost California less than half, per offender, than incarceration. But instead of expanding such programs, two have recently shut down.


Scott Kernan, CDCR's undersecretary for operations, says most of the centers' residents will likely end up in other diversion programs, such as firefighting camps, or in a "minimum support facility" where, he says, housing prisoners is nearly as cheap as community-based programs. Yet it's costly to return the residents to prison even temporarily, according to Robert Weisberg, director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.

Kernan acknowledges that even though "there are not sufficient alternative sanctions for inmates," the state's deep budget cuts make it unlikely that CDCR will expand community-based detention programs this year. But as UC Irvine criminologist Joan Petersilia warns, "You need more [community-based] facilities if you want to satisfy the courts and keep public safety in check."