Prison Reform Advocate Applauds Inmate Release Plan

A federal court in California has ordered the release of 40,000 prison inmates, 10News reported Tuesday.

One local woman thinks releasing prisoners isn't such a bad idea.

Donovan state prison is one example of how bad prison overcrowding has become. It houses more than twice the number of inmates for which it was built. Beds are stacked three-high inside a gym turned maximum-security dorm.

Prison reform advocate Gretchen Burns Bergmam said her son, a former heroin addict, was much like the 24,000 low-level non-violent drug offenders locked up in prisons across the state.

"He ended up recycling through the prison system for a decade of his life," Bergmam said.

Bergman favors the release of non-violent drug offenders. She said drug addicts like her son are better off in rehab than behind bars. It would not only ease prison overcrowding but save the state a lot of money, she said. Currently, taxpayers pay $49,000 a year per inmate.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore called the early release of thousands of inmates overkill.

"Its definitely going to impact public safety at at local level," he said.

"I'd much rather see a drug treatment facility next door than people on the streets drugged out, knowing they're just going to be recyled through the prison system my tax dollars are paying for," Bergmam said.

Gore said he would rather see the state spend money getting inmates help while they are incarcerated.

"We need programs in our facilites, not to release them so they can prey in our community," he said.

As for Bergman's son, he eventually pulled his life together. "But, like I say, it took him longer to get the prison system out of his soul than to get him to stop thinking of himself as a hopeless addict," she said.

The state legislature has until mid-September to draft a plan to reduce California's prison population. There's already talk the state will appeal Tuesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.