22 January 2004
Re: Editorial, “A Fresh Look”
Does letting old criminals out save money?
Using the Fresno Bee numbers that 1,200 inmates out of 160,000 are over 65 years old, amounts to less than 1% of the total California prison population. Not much savings, especially when you factor out the death row and life without parole inmates.
Also keep in mind, just because old inmates are out of prison doesn’t mean they don’t represent a burden on the taxpayer in the form of welfare, MediCal and Medicare. Keeping a former inmate in a rest home is more than $60,000 per year, over twice the cost of incarceration. Few, if any, have health insurance or are independently wealthy.
3-Strikes provides 25 years to life, not life without parole. Do the math. A 40 year old (which is rare) getting his third strike will be eligible for parole at age 65. This is exactly what the Bee is suggesting.
This still allows a parole board discretion to contain some of our infamous seniors such as Kenneth Eugene Parnell, Charles Manson and Lawrence Singleton (all of which fit the Bee’s criteria for early release).
As to prison population, it should be noted that 10 years before 3-Strikes California built 19 new prisons and saw a 400% increase in its prison population and no corresponding reduction in crime. Ten years after 3-Strikes, California is struggling to complete 1 new prison.
Our inmate population has remained at approximately 160,000 for the last 4 years and California has seen the greatest crime reductions in its history.