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Government & Politics

Steinberg: Addressing Mental Health Can Reduce Prison Overcrowding

Ben Adler
Capital Public Radio

The top Democrat in the California Senate is calling for more crisis access to mental health services to help reduce the state’s overcrowded prisons. 

But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the proposals likely wouldn’t satisfy a federal court order to reduce the state’s prison population.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he’s been working on this plan for a while – but it’s especially timely now that a three-judge panel has ruled the state’s prisons are unconstitutionally overcrowded.  The goal is to reduce the rate at which paroled inmates commit new crimes and end up back behind bars.  Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal is a supporter:

“Increasing these programs that are recommended by the pro Tem will go a long ways to trying to reduce recidivism and also improve public safety,” says Royal.

The proposals would add more rapid-response resources, increase assistance with Medi-Cal enrollment, and expand a program that helps mentally ill parolees.  But any results of those actions would be long term – and Steinberg acknowledges they probably wouldn’t reduce the prison population quickly enough to meet the state’s court order.