Prison Guards Lock Down Schwarzenegger

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In a political about-face as sudden as it is short-sighted, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared that the way to fix the state’s problem-wracked prisons is by building more of them and locking more convicts up inside them.

For the last two years, Big Arnold has pushed for a range of progressive reforms in the nation’s biggest prison system, from releasing low-level female drug offenders into halfway houses to bringing back education and treatment programs – even adding the word “Rehabilitation” to the Department of Corrections official name.

Why? Because the prison population has hit a record 170,000, and reducing it makes obvious sense in a cash-strapped state that spends over $7 billion a year on incarceration and still has one of the worst recidivism rates in the country. Schwarzenegger was the first governor in years whose campaign wasn’t bankrolled with the help of the prison guards’ union, one of the state’s most profligate political donors, which freed his hand on correctional policies. But now, suffering from sagging poll numbers and facing a fall election, Schwarzenegger has made an alliance with the powerful union; to prove it, this week he called for the construction of two brand new $500 million prisons, and for the defeat of a ballot initiative that would weaken California’s notorious “three strikes you’re out” law which has put thousands of minor offenders behind bars for life.

As a federal court investigator put it, Schwarzenegger is abandoning “one of the most productive periods of prison reform” in the state’s history and giving the guards’ union back a “disturbing” degree of say over incarceration policy. C’mon, Arnold – it wasn’t that long ago that you were fighting for the freedom of all humans!

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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