Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarenegger told Tim Russert that one of the top concerns of his second term will be reform of that state’s festering prison system. This is good news if he means it. Right now California’s prisons, like most of the others in the US, are dangerous and expensive joke. A couple of years ago the guards at California prisons won a labor dispute with  then Governor Gray Davis and became among the highest paid civil servants in the state with salaries after overtime often exceeding $150,000 per year. Given their high pay the taxpayers can expect much better performance from them than they have been getting.

Let’s start with drugs. In California prisons every type of illegal drug is available to inmates for a price. Where do the drugs come from? Now, the prisoners obviously can’t leave to cop; their visitors are thoroughly searched and cannot be the source; that only leaves the prison staff. I don’t  think it is too much to ask of the these highly paid “servants” of the people to live on their swollen salaries and refrain from augmenting their incomes by drug trafficking. In fact Arnold’s point of attack for prison reform should begin right here. He needs to launch a major undercover investigation of these scum with badges and clean out the dealers from the ranks of the guards, doling out maximum sentences for those caught. If we can’t win the war of drugs in prisons, what chance do we have on the street? Think about it.

Next, the gangs which plague the whole state but particularly the largest cities — Los Angeles has an estimate street gang population in excess of 20,000 armed and dangerous felons, about equal to the Sadr Army in Baghdad — are under the current situation able to carry on business as usual while incarcerated through the use of cell phones. Whatever happened to the “one phone call” rule? Obviously an easy step in taking back control of the prison and the street would be to install equipment to jam and block all cell phone activity in and around every prison. The staff have access to land-lines and authorized and supervised calls from inmates could be made from them, but the illegal command and control of the street gang from their bosses in prison could be interupted and seriously weakened by this simple move.

In his discussion with Tim Russert, Schwarzenegger made the usual noises about rehabilitation, job training and so on as if this was a real option for the demented, drug and alcohol damaged sociopaths who constitute the problem. A more imaginative answer, and a cost-effective one too, would be to consider out-sourcing the imprisonment of our hard-core convicts to other countries, just like we out-source our jobs. Why not have the Mexicans run some of our prisons, and also the Chinese? It would save the taxpayers a bundle and would guarantee convicted gang leaders would never control the  street action again.

 

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