Well, the fiscal rubber has finally hit the sentencing and prison road in California. As the New York Times details, the state's financial crisis has forced open early release for some prisoners for the first time in years:
California's prisons are notorious for overcrowded conditions, and its fiscal crisis has certainly not helped matters. The solution the state has come to--early release of non-violent prisoners who are unlikely to recidivate--is being watched with great interest by other cash-strapped states.
Our criminal justice system has long over-relied on long sentences and continual building of prisons to try to control crime, all of this ironically as crime has gone down over the past 40 years (and has continued to go down even in the recession). Perhaps the simple lack of cash on the part of state governments will finally force some more reasonable thinking in sentencing. Of course, as the article points out, the early release of California prisoners is not accompanied by any form of drug or alcohol counseling or rehabilitation to help prevent recidivism. But it is a step in the right direction.