In his latest column, George Skelton presents the case that realignment isn’t just a revolutionary new way to handle state prisoners, it was also inevitable. He also says that it’s appropriate that he signed the legislation reforming the prison system, since during his last stint as governor, he signed the law that helped lead to prison over crowding.

In 1978, the state prison system housed 21,000 prisoners and accounted for 3% of the budget. Now, it holds 170,000 and consumes 11% of the budget. The increase in prison population was due in part to legislation signed by Brown that established mandatory sentencing for various crimes. Those mandatory sentences could serve as a deterrent to future crime, but once a criminal is in prison, it eliminates the desire to behave well to earn an early release.

So now that the prisons are grossly overcrowded, it was either release thousands of prisoners or come up with another way of meeting a Christmas deadline of state prison population reduction. Hence, realignment.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The boring, bureaucratic word “realignment” masks the truly dramatic change in locking up California criminals that Gov. Jerry Brown just pulled off.

“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, what’s new in Sacramento?'” Brown told a news conference last week. “Well, this is new. It’s bold. It’s difficult. And it will continuously change as we learn from experience.

“But we can’t sit still and let the courts release 30,000 serious prisoners. We have to do something.”

Read the full article here.