The prison overcrowding issue in the US, and particularly in Cali is quite sad (horrifying, even). From your NYT link:
The epidemic at the prison has led to a clash of priorities for a correctional system that is dealing with below average medical care and chronic overcrowding.
Last fall, heeding advice from local health officials and a federal receiver charged with improving the state’s prison medical care, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation delayed plans to add 600 new beds out of concern that the construction might stir up more spores.
The delayed expansion here was part of a $7.9 billion plan signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last summer to relieve overcrowding in the state’s prisons. Pleasant Valley was built in 1994 to house 2,000 inmates.
I saw a doc a couple of months ago on The Discovery Channel about California's prisons--"Breaking Point
." Here's a quick explanation for the ridiculous overcrowding:
Designed to accommodate no more than 100,000 inmates, California’s prisons now hold 173,000, each at an annual cost of $43,000. How did things get so out of control? Mandatory sentencing is a big part of the answer. When California voters threw their support behind a get-tough-on-crime bill that came to be known as "Three Strikes and You’re Out," the state prison system filled up and is now overflowing.
Joseph Mason is a third-striker. He’s been arrested and convicted three times for nonviolent burglaries and he won’t be eligible for parole until 2019; the ultimate irony is that he voted for the three strikes law. Brian O’Neal is also a nonviolent repeat offender. He has been to prison 11 times and nine of those sentences were for violating parole.
This is the kind of thing that Harper et al. wish to emulate. Get tough! Don't mollycoddle teh criminalz! Stack'em up like cord wood and throw away the key! :rant: