The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California prisons violated the US constitution – their cramping of prisoners in overcrowded conditions constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
California’s public finances are also in terrible shape, which means two things.
One, they’re in no position to build more prisons. Two, having so many prisoners is a key reason for their bloated budget in the first place.
California spends over $10 billion a year jailing and taking care of prisoners. Furthermore, for every prisoner incarcerated, they had to be pursued and arrested by police officers and tried in courts. All these things cost money.
Furthermore, most prisoners aren’t rehabilitated in prison. Instead, they become more hardened and scarred. When they are released, they have trouble integrating into society because it’s extremely difficult for ex-convicts to secure long-term gainful employment.
Given California’s insane parole violation laws, many first-time offenders become repeat-offenders and simply cycle through the prison system for the rest of their lives.
Then there is the funding of gangs.
That’s right, the ‘war on drugs’ funds gangs – something clueless California lawmakers don’t seem to comprehend.
Gangs exist for one reason: to make money.
In the beginning, they were largely limited to theft. If prostitution was illegal, they were involved in that. When alcohol became illegal in the US, they hit pay-dirt. In fact, alcohol prohibition is by far the biggest factor that gave rise to large-scale organized crime in the US.
When the US started its ‘war on drugs,’ gangs – in the US, Mexico, Colombia, and many other countries – hit the jackpot.
The logic is simple. Because drugs are illegal, they’re a highly desired and scarce -- that is, not easily obtainable through legal means -- and monopolized by criminals. Any business executive will tell you that monopolizing such a product will guarantee the supplier riches and secure funding for expanding operations.
Moreover, the ‘war on drugs’ has stupidly moved drugs to a shadow society, to the detriment of the public and drug users.
First, there is the missing tax revenues. More importantly, there is a complete lack of regulation and law in the drug shadow world. For example, there are very few safe procedure (e.g. preventing the spread of diseases) and screening (e.g. for age) practices.
Basic laws regarding violence and theft also go out the window. For example, it’s ridiculous to imagine rival licensed alcohol stores carrying out assassinations against each other.
However, drug-dealing gangs commit violent crime all the time.
California’s overcrowded prisons and bloated budget are just two symptoms of the insane and failed policy of the ‘war on drugs.’ Having a saner drug policy would solve those problems and much more.