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Can California learn anything from Norway? – Press Telegram

By Niguel Duara | CalMatters

California has a recidivism issue.

Two-thirds of those incarcerated in the state will return to prison within three years, either for new offenses or for violations of parole, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In Norway, on the other hand, recidivism has dropped from 60% -70% in the 1980s to about 20% today. The country credits the change to reforms that prioritize rehabilitation over punishment and its guiding question about prison policy: when prisoners are released, what kind of neighbor does society want them to be?

Prisons in Norway and parts of Western Europe downplay the institutional aspects of life in prison. Inmates can wear their own clothes, cook their own food, and have relative freedom of movement within the prison walls.

Democratic Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua of Stockton read about the Norwegian model last year and offered a reduced version this year for California.

The bill, Bill 2730passed unanimously and now passes to the Senate, with the support of both prison reform advocates and the union representing prison guards.

The idea is that prisoners with two years or less in prison would be elected by the warden and transferred to a campus in the prison where they would cook their own food, wash their clothes and make their own beds. And most importantly for Villapudua, they would get job training in areas that need more workers.

For the Villapudua district, that means training truckers to fight a shortage of willing truckers to perform long-distance routes. For some inmates, that means getting a Class A driver’s license to drive large platforms before they are released.

“That way, when they come out, they already have the Class A card and they know who their bosses are,” Villapudua said. “It simply came to our notice then.

“In their first week, maybe even before they leave, they may have a salary because (the truck companies) now have subscription bonuses.”

Villapudua said he helped four previously incarcerated people obtain Class A licenses and connected them with employers, for jobs that pay more than $ 80,000. But the process, he said, is backwards.

Instead of waiting for people to be released, facing their first days out of prison trying to find employment, Villapudua said it makes more sense to spend his last two years inside for job training.

The idea of ​​a more community model for American prisons has began to take root in several statespart of a long-running effort by the California-based Prison Law Project to take lawmakers to Norway where they can see the model first hand.

In North Dakotaabout a dozen inmates live in a trailer called the Transitional Housing Unit, who live in their own locked rooms. In Connecticut, they can do a manufacturing course at a local community college. In Idaho, reported the Marshall Projecta prisoner, a guard and their families went fishing together.

“Can we snap our fingers and turn California prisons into Norway? No,” said Sharon Dolovich, director of UCLA’s Penitentiary Policy and Law Program. “But this is an urgent step to transform the experience of incarceration into what it is supposed to really represent.”

Despite Norway’s success in recidivism, the prison system there has attracted international attention in the last decade for a different reason: Anders Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in bomb and gun attacks in 2011, allegedly in a 2016 lawsuit who was being mistreated.

That’s when most people knew your accommodations: Three separate cells, access to video games and the freedom to cook your own food. According to the BBC, he built a gingerbread house as part of a prison competition.

That’s not exactly what Villapudua said he imagines in California.

“People always think reform is a bad word,” Villapudua said. “The key is to separate people who know you made a mistake and know that they will be normal citizens again, not be pretending to be there. If you pretend you are, you are going back to the general population.”

The bill was passed unanimously in the public security and credit committees of the Assembly, and again in the plenary of the Assembly in May.

It doesn’t come with money attached, so if the governor were approved and signed, the California prison system would have to pay for it within its own budget, which is $ 14.2 billion in 2022-2023.

No specific conviction would disqualify inmates from participation, something Dolovich said is an important aspect of the bill that allows for the participation of a much wider spectrum of inmates.

Villapudua said he deliberately left the program open to everyone, not just the “no no-nons,” a colloquial phrase that indicates the prisoner with nonviolent, non-serious, non-sexual sentences.

“Everyone is so ready to exclude the people we’re trying to help,” Dolovich said. “Who are these elusive no-no-nons?”

Not all details are collected, Villapudua said, and doubts remain. Would prisoners go out of prison to work in the outside world? Can they get jobs as stevedores in ports, which require background checks?

In a letter of support to the Legislature, the lobbyist of the California Association of Correctional Peace Agents, Matthew Easley, wrote that the bill would be an improvement on the vocational programs offered today. In his letter, he ridicules existing programs as they often have “no correlation with the needs of the communities in which inmates will be released” and do not prepare them for employment.

And, he said, the community environment would help inmates who want rehabilitation by separating them from inmates who don’t.

“Even with the right motivations and intentions, the pressures encountered by fellow inmates may be too great to stay in a straight line,” Easley wrote on May 23rd. environment as those who have no intention of improving themselves ”.

Can California learn anything from Norway? – Press Telegram Source link Can California learn anything from Norway? – Press Telegram

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