Will California Reduce Drug Penalties To Cut Prison Costs?

California prison over-crowding is beyond legendary and little has been done legislation-wise to alleviate the problem. A few months ago, a handful of California lawmakers considered a heretofore-unconsidered alternative to keep prison costs down by reducing the penalties for small drug possession offenders.

This option is not as drastic as one might suppose and it does represent, at the very least, a step in the right direction. But the question is: Have all the repercussions of such a move been thought through, and how would this decision affect the bail bond industry?

San Francisco senator, Mark Leno, is the man behind the idea of reducing the penalty for simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor as a solution to prison over crowding. He has gone so far as to initiate a bill, which has been the subject of a heated debate.

The fear among some, notably the public policy action group, called Californians for Drug Free Youth is that the passage of this bill will be seen as a carte blanche for California’s youth to feel free to try harder drugs.  

The American Civil Liberties Union (California branch) supports Senator Leno’s new bill. They argue that its passage will insure individual accountability and subsequent treatment, which in turn will reduce the load of the prison system. This in turn, they argue, will enable them to concentrate on those hardened criminals who should remain incarcerated.

The public at large also supports Leno’s plan with one specific caveat; a decrease in jail time for small amounts of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine is acceptable provided that the defendant has successfully completed a drug treatment plan.

While this bill may be new, the idea isn’t, particularly among those in the bail bond industry who have always argued that for those who choose to experiment with dangerous drugs, increased charges and penalties are not a deterrent. Drug use can still escalate among defendants who have done time in prison for minor possession, as their record continues to haunt them and often affects their ability to get a good job and start over with a decent slant on life.

Time will tell on this new legislation. Meanwhile, back at the ranch as they say, California prisons are still congested and drug offenders still face long prison terms and heavy penalties.

Posted by M Dee Dubroff, on November 28, 2012 at 9:00 AM