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Brown Calls For Elimination Of Youth Prison System And Shifting Of State Prisoners To County Jails

Publication Date: 
January 14, 2011
San Jose Mercury News
Karen de Sá

Professor Joan Petersilia spoke with Karen de Sá of the San Jose Mercury News on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate the youth prison system and end prison terms for thousands of the state's low-risk adult convicts:

The budget Gov. Jerry Brown presented this week calls for the most sweeping criminal justice overhaul in state history -- the elimination of the youth prison system and an end to prison terms for thousands of low-risk adult convicts who, going forward, would be housed in county-run jails instead of the state's teeming lockups.

Brown says the changes, if enacted by the Legislature in March, would save the embattled state almost half a billion dollars next fiscal year -- and $1.4 billion annually in the long haul -- while relieving prison overcrowding that has sparked federal lawsuits.


Many criminal justice experts agree. "This is just an incredibly massive shift for a state system that was sending everybody and their brother to prison," said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford University criminologist. Petersilia, who has worked with two successive gubernatorial administrations on the change, described it as "the most significant in California history."

But she offered widely echoed caution: "We shouldn't be naive and think we can do this on the cheap -- these offenders have serious needs."