August 12: What's Jen Clicking on Between Newscasts? | NBC Southern California

August 12: What's Jen Clicking on Between Newscasts?

Here's another kind of budget protest: Riot in the Big House

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    Holy cow, we knew it was bad, what with all the injuries and some really, really bad (I can say that because they're convicted felons) guys wrecking the place, but to see the aftermath of the weekend riot at Chino is really eye opening.

    Check out the video and pictures, and consider your hard earned tax money going toward cleaning this up a new living space for the guys who wrecked it for themselves.

     

    What a mess, and NOW what happens?  The New York Times story says "Damage to the 1,300-inmate medium-security prison was “significant and extensive,” said a spokesman, Lt. Mark Hargrove. One housing unit was virtually destroyed by fire, Lieutenant Hargrove said. The other housing areas were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable, he said, so some inmates were being temporarily housed in tents while others were sent to alternate prisons."

    The rioting went on for eleven hours, and "broke down along racial lines, with black prison gangs fighting Latino gangs in hand-to-hand combat, the authorities said," again quoting the New York Times here. 

    Chino is trying to live by the Supreme Court decision in 2005 that prohibits automatic racial segregation in prisons.  So, when inmates come in, they can, if it's okay with them, be assigned a cellmate who has a different racial background.  A lieutenant at Chino says that has increased racial tensions on the inside.

    So now, there's this big mess to clean up, and all this happening just a week after Californiagets a federal order to reduce prison overcrowding.  There's no money to build new cells, especially since Governor Schwarzenegger just signed a budget which includes $1.2 billion in cuts to the state prison system, so that means about 40,000 California inmates have to be released over the next two years.  That's nearly one in four inmates who are serving time right now.

    As I sit here searching for the information on how much it's going to cost to get Chino back up and running, I found this blog by financial planner Greg Fierman with the headline, "Prison Riots Bring Corrections Corp. into Focus Again."  He says, "take a look at the stock I mention [Corrections Corp. (CXW)] to play the prison business."

    Fierman also makes reference to another piece he wrote in April about the relationship between crime and recession.

    I’ve been wondering if hard economic times would cause people to commit more crimes.  The Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting article about this last Wednesday: “Evidence Suggests That People Don’t Suddenly Commit Murder After Losing Their Jobs; But Theft, Yes” (subscription required).  You can read the entire article for free at Financial Armageddon.  Here are some money quotes:

     

    By and large, the studies show that lousy job markets — particularly for young or unskilled men — are linked to more thefts.  But the connection isn’t so plain with violent crimes like murder and rape.  That bolsters the theory of a more rational criminal: When the economy flags, people inclined to crime opt for dishonest income; they don’t start shooting people.

    Yes, some crime DOES pay.  But I digress -- we all pay for the prison system.  So, how much?  We know the damage to the people:  The Associated Press reports 175 prisoners injured, 55 of them seriously, 30 still hospitalized on Monday.  One thousand inmates were moved to other facilities, most of them to a vacant youth facility.  

    The story from the AP also says that Chino is one of 10 state prisons closed to visitors now, because staff from those prisons are being temporarily shifted to Chino to help clean up the riot's aftermath.  So, the only cost we're seeing right now, is to the inmates who are missing their visitors.  And, probably some overtime to those relocated employees.  One estimate I saw was that the repairs could take more than a month.

    The story in the Press Enterprise says two of the injured inmates are still in critical condition, and has both sides of the debate on whether budget cuts and overcrowding led to the melee:

    "It had nothing to do with short staffing. It had to do with the inmates doing what they do," said Gary Clark, president of the Chino chapter of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

    Cindie Fonseca, spokeswoman for prison teachers and librarians, said that within the past two months, prisoners have been become increasingly restless with budget cuts eliminating programs and other opportunities that keep them occupied.

    The latest stories also say there's no dollar estimate yet on the damage to the facility.  I guess I would echo the bloggers and tweeters who are saying it's better they wreck the "big house" -- than be released early and wreck your house -- either way, we all get to pay for it.

    See what else Jen is clicking on...