Posted by: Jim | September 8, 2008

California: “The Pokey State”

 California has a little problem.  Too many felons, not enough prison cells. In 1980, the year I graduated from High School, there were 23,000 people in California prisons. In 2000, it was over 160,000. That’s almost eight times the amount.  

The reason we have so many felons is not because people have gotten worse, but because of three other factors: 

  1. More things are illegal.
  2. More things result in a mandatory prison term.
  3. The prison terms are much longer.


So what do we have? Prisons built to hold 1,800 inmates, that are forced instead to hold more than 4,700. Naturally this results in prisons that are only punitive and not rehabilitating. So the dudes who leave, just end up coming right back. The problem mushrooms.


How did this happen? This is a great example of why voters are stupid, why politicians are short-sighted, and why our system should be completely changed.


In the late 70’s there was a “scare” about illegal drugs and youth crime. People were whipped into a frenzy due to statistics that were interpreted to mean the entire world was going to hell. (For a great article on this, read “Freakonomics.”) To pander to their populace many elected officials claimed they were “tough on crime” and vowed to pass laws that would really make a person think twice before committing a crime. And pass those laws they did. Even an intelligent official who may have realized they were creating a problem for the future did not vote against stiffer penalties for fear of being labeled “Soft on crime and losing their pressssioussss government jobs.


And what was the crime most associated with stiffer penalties and mandatory prison terms? Consensual drug use–a “crime” that hurts no one but potentially the person who is choosing to imbibe.


Did the criminals think twice before committing their horrific offenses? No, they got busted, and instead of getting a slap on the wrist, are now thrown in the hoosegow with hardened criminals who should be there. This environment hardens the consensual criminal into an actual criminal with a very sore sphincter.


Since California is paying to imprison these tens of thousands of small-town drug users, the state was going broke. So what did we do? We tried to pass the California Prison Population Reduction Act (2008). Which would have reduced sentences, repealed the three-strikes rule, etc. This would have been a sensible response, but would have made politicians who vote for it seem soft on crime. So no go.


Now the Prison guards, who fear for their lives every day, are trying to give Schwartzenegger the boot.


To the other 49 states … let this be a lesson to you.  Laws are like toothpaste. Easy to squeeze out, hard to suck back in.


  1. Agreed on all counts, my friend. Except for this little teeny part:

    And what was the crime most associated with stiffer penalties and mandatory prison terms? Consensual drug use–a “crime” that hurts no one but potentially the person who is choosing to imbibe.

    The problem I have with ‘consensual’ drug use is – where do you get it? The more you encourage the use of it, the more you encourage the sale of it, and the problem mushrooms. Yes, lightening the penalty or looking the other way when it comes to drugs is encouragement. While often, consensual drug use (marijuana and the gateway drugs) is perfectly non-life threatening, what happens when someone has an accident because of drug use, or OD’s and requires emergency services? Who pays for that? Your problem mushrooms in another area, the area of healthcare, where perfectly healthy non-drug-using citizens pay their inflated dues each month to account for those who cannot pay or are not entitled to these services because of poor decisions like…drug use.

    If you rammed your car into a tree because you drank too much or were baked on weed, I’d honestly have little sympathy for you. I’d be sure you had your healthcare, but I’d also be damn sure you were accountable for the bill.

    There would be fewer people in prison, but there would also be more bankruptcy, more transients on the streets, and healthcare costs would rise. Among other issues.

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if Toad and the rest of the Kool-Aid drinkers applied their very special brand of logic to *real* problems? Here he’s all up in arms because someone *might* have to use their insurance (or, gasp!, not have insurance and HE’D have to pay for it!!!) if they have an accident or smoke too much bud, but we don’t hear a peep outta him when the government spends taxpayer money to bail out big business for its poor decisions.

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are getting bailed out even as we speak at taxpayer expense. What a life it must be to have a Republican President and Congress on your payroll — you get to privatize the profits and let the government pay for the losses.

    The way things are going, legalizing drugs might be the only way to keep the public clueless to how they’re being fleeced — give us cheap, legal hallucinogens and we might all be as gullible as Toad and his fellow Kool-Aid drinkers.

  3. Chuckie, you really don’t get it. Where in your rambling commentary do you address Jim’s post? Or is this just how you let out your aggression? May I suggest another alternative?


  4. Todd, I strongly encourage you to read Peter McWilliams’ book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do.” It addresses all of your arguments, and shows why they are wrong.

    Furthermore, your support of the current paradigm is exactly why the situation is horribly broken. You’re assuming that by making drugs legal it would increase usage. Did you know that alcoholism increased during prohibition? Who knows why, but there’s a fact that directly contradicts your assumption.

    And do we make something illegal because of the impact it has on healthcare? Then make cigarettes illegal, and alchohol too for that matter. Make fried foods illegal, and diet coke, etc. Seriously, these things have a far bigger impact on your health care bill than marijuana. You want to make health care cheaper? Give it to EVERYONE. But that’s a different topic.

    You’re also missing a big point. If drugs were legalized, they would fall under the scrutiny of the FDA, and many of the reasons why drug users end up in the hospital would end. Yes, drugs would become safer. So since you think drug users in the hospital increase health care costs for everyone else (which is debatable–they don’t get health care if they can’t pay for it) then making drugs legal would decrease that.

    And more transients? You’re assuming that the people who have uncontrollable impulses to ruin their lives with drugs are not doing that now because they’re illegal.

    Legalizing drugs would solve the prison problem. It would solve the crime problem. It would solve the “War on Drugs” problem (which costs you more than you realize). And think of the revenue!! We would tax that shit man!! We could balance the budget in about 2 weeks. And we could create completely self-paid government programs to decrease addiction for those few people who do get sucked in.

    You’re a Conservative. You want less government, right? Then walk the walk …

  5. Typical Toad. Can’t refute what I’ve said, so he changes the subject, and then accuses me of what he did himself. Jim’s post was about prisons, not healthcare costs, so how in hypocritical Republican hell does Toad think HIS comments addressed it?

  6. Jim: Rational discourse
    Toad: Ribbit ribbit
    Chuck: Sardonic yet still rational challenge/mockery of Toad
    Toad: Ribbit ribbit

    Hey Todd: ever hear the old adage ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’? Think about it. I know you have a brain; I know you’re not retarded, despite the fact that several of us, myself included, often refer to you as such.

    People ram their cars into trees every day due to alcohol abuse, thus causing your insurance rates to be high, thus preventing you from buying books. Yet alcohol is legal. By your logic, we should return to alcohol prohibition, which was OH so successful.

    Do some research, buddy. The amount spent IN FUTILITY on fighting drugs is a staggering number. No amount of societal chaos envisioned by you and your ilk when you imagine the horror of rampaging legal pot smokers could EVER even approach the cost of the drug war itself. Not to mention that, if you ever paid any attention to anything other than propaganda, you might discover that pot is far more likely to make people sedately sit around watching TV and eating snacks than to be out driving their cars into trees and creating havoc in the countryside. That’s some other drug you’re thinking of — it’s called, um, let me remember, um…oh yeah: BEER.

    Whether their drug of choice is legal or illegal, the majority of users are not abusers or addicts. In fact, they live just like everybody else. The percentage of abusers and addicts could be easily managed for a fraction of the money spent on the fiasco known as the ‘war on drugs’. I could do the research and cite the numbers, but I have work to do today and you wouldn’t pay attention anyway — but it’s all readily out there if you are willing to do some real truth-searching and skirt around the factless, agenda-based propaganda. Jim recommended an excellent book on the subject, and there are a zillion others out there that would make sense to even the simplest of minds, as long as said mind was willing to let go of its preconceived notions and spoon-fed dogma.

    And by the way, the whole ‘gateway drug’ thing was debunked decades ago, though it’s still dragged out to scare the gullible. There is no gateway drug, any more than a snickers bar is a gateway to obesity. You either have a tendency to overdo and abuse and take crazy risks for your pleasures, or you don’t. Those who do, find a way, whether it’s legal or not.

    And you are going to pay for those people, whether you punish them or not. Care to know how much of your money goes to keep people in jail who would otherwise go to work like everybody else and harmlessly smoke some pot when they got home, just like you might harmlessly suck down a Coors?

    Let me tell ya, Einstein, it’s a lot. So if you’re really gonna pull out the economic argument, you really ought to use the real numbers. Try googling ‘harm reduction’ and see if you learn anything.

    * * *

  7. Todd’s posts are a gateway drug to total insanity.

    They must be stopped because finally we will all bear the cost.

    Also, on the subject of drunk-drivers smashing into trees, please take a second and pledge your support to my “Moving trees further from the edge of highways” project. Most drunks only fly 50 metres or so off the blacktop, if we can just relocate some 72 million trees we can save up to two hundred lives a year and more in healthcare costs.

    Not to mention protecting trees, the green lungs of our planet.

    See??? It’s the Todd Effect kicking in already…

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