Rehabilitation the Big Lie
Terry B. Davis
As I mentioned in my previous writings, Why California is going broke, the Department of Corrections in California soaks up large sums of money due to employee's misconduct and failure to be proactive. As my Father use to say never throw good money after bad. Well, California continues to throw good money after bad and continues to do the same old things that failed years ago. Give it a new name, and use new buzz words, but that dog ain't gonna hunt.
In the late 1950's yearly 1960's, California came up with the concept to rehabilitate inmates in its prisons. After many studies, meetings and political arm twisting, California launched a rehabilitation program. Every inmate would receive a GED or high School education, or become proficient in a trade. Sounds great, first step was to change the name of several state prisons, one was named the Central Training Facility at Soledad, California (CTF) and it twin institution outside of Stockton, California was named the Duel Vocational Institution (DVI). Both institutions converted rooms to class rooms, auto motive repair shops were built, upholstery trade was developed, along with Dairy facilities to produce its meat and milk and agricultural programs were instituted. Also at CTF, a baking program and butchers programs were developed. Other programs that were developed were furniture building/repair, horticulture, and commercial printing. Teachers and Tradesmen were hired to teach inmates the skills that were needed in the trade or education of their choice. A program with a local college was also started where inmates actually attended classes at the college, and a program for University Degrees that were more of mail schooling with prison teachers being the proctors for testing. Some inmates benefited from these programs, but they were few and far between. Majority of the inmates were more concerned with getting a prison job so they could buy sodas, ice cream, and chips.
The programs were soon cut back, reduced and eventually closed. Partly due to costs, increase in violence in the institutions, and the movement back to incarceration. In retrospect the inmates were never responsible for their rehabilitation, and the cost had been under estimated. The institution returned to incarceration and the programs were either cut entirely or severally reduced.
Again in the late 1970's and early 1980's, rehabilitation reared its ugly head. Again, inmates would be required to go to school until reaching a grade level equivalent of the 7th grade. Again programs were put into place, money earmarked, teachers hired and some outside contractors were hired to produce office furniture, and inmate clothing for the state, along with some of the basic building trades, electrical, plumbing, welding, and masonry. Also inmate jobs were created to assist electrical, plumbing and maintenance departments within the institution. Again, the inmates bore no responsibility for their education or rehabilitation, and the funds for the programs were inadequate. Coupled with the failure to hold inmates responsible for their rehabilitation, rising costs and again the increase of violence the programs again faded away.
This brings us to the recent past. Again politicians demanded rehabilitation, studies were performed, plans made, programs and systems set into place. Now, the Director and all the other gutless administrators jumped on board, the buzz words were, we are going to reduce recidivism, prison populations, and we are going to rehabilitate inmates and parolees.
Before I continue and in order to show you how morally corrupt, and dishonest the management of the Department of Corrections had become. I had received permission from the state to attend the Black Correctional Officers Union meeting in the Los Angeles area. The Director of corrections at that time, Mr. Hickman and a host of Departmental heads were there to break the news of the new direction of the Department of Correction, to move to rehabilitation. He spoke at great length of the value of this direction and that the whole Department had to get behind it and that we can do it etc...., a rah, rah, rally the troop's kind of thing. Now I am not one to sit on my hands or keep my mouth shut, we were seated in a large banquet room which seated about 500 to 600 people. When he asked for questions I raised my hand, I asked if the state was going to make the inmates responsible for their rehabilitation and if the money to actually do it had been approved. Mr. Hickman gave an emphatic answer that it had and the plan would go forward and we would learn more about it in the next several months and how this was an exciting time to be involved in the Department and the new direction it was going. After the meeting concluded I happened to run into the Mr. Hickman in the hallway outside of the banquet room and he was surrounded by several other upper management people. Mr. Hickman was relaying his story of how he manipulated Arnold into hiring him as the Director. He said that Arnold looked him straight in the eye and asked him if he would be able to reform the Department of Corrections. Without batting an eyelash Hickman returned his gaze and told him, yes sir I can do it in five years. Arnold was impressed and hired him. Hickman then began laughing and said, When he asked me if I could do it in five years, I lied, that way before the five years are up, I can tell him that it was going to take another 4 years or so as the Department is so big and it takes a long time to stop the machine and restart it in a different direction. This way Mr. Hickman would be assured of continuing as the director if Arnold was re-elected. They all then laughed and slapped each other on the back. I just walked away disgusted.
During this latest attempt at rehabilitation of inmates and parolees, I was working in paroles. Initially, we had all kinds of meetings giving us little pieces of the plan at a time and a caravan of upper management types giving the, rally the troops kind of speeches, any questions that could not be answered or the person asking the question would point out a problem or inconsistence would be verbally brow beat, and listed as a Cowboy, a person that is not a team player. In the end, the only changes I saw were the California Department of Corrections became the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A local program was also renamed but it remained the same program. Yes, there was another change inmates were being discharged from parole early and the Board of Parole hearings was more intent on not returning parolees to prison for violations. Inmates and Parolee's are not being held accountable or responsible for their rehabilitation, and the money never made it where it was needed. In fact, we lost money. We had food vouchers and bus passes, the first time we ran out it took 8 months to get the food vouchers and I never saw the bus passes again. So I would say that again, just as the last two prior attempts by the State to Rehabilitate, has failed. This time the failure is resulting in local citizens taking the brunt of it. Sure the State saves money releasing parolees early from parole, and failure to return parolees to prison for serious or repetitive parole violations. The citizens pay the price, becoming new crime victims, costs of holding them in local jails, and going thru the court process, but the management of the Department are happy, they were not victimized, and they saved the Department money.
I will continue this in the third hub of the series, and will present my plan for the reformation of the Department of Corrections, while protecting the public and giving inmates the opportunity to rehabilitation and return to the community that they came from to return as a reformed productive member of their community.