(Editor’s Note. Tom Ammiano represents the 17th Assembly District and San Francisco)
Dear Mr. Ammiano: It is my sincere hope this letter will be received in the same spirit of appreciation and cooperation in which it is written. First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the courage and independent thinking and actions you demonstrated in the unannounced visit to inspect the conditions of confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison/Security Housing Unit, and speak with Strike Leaders.Mr. Ammiano as indicated by the return address on this envelope, I am a state prisoner and I have been incarcerated for a little more than 43 years.
Entering the prison system in 1970, at that time the mission focus of the prison system was rehabilitation; to keep prisoners out of the cells as much as possible and engaged in prison work assignments, academic and vocational training programs, and organized sports. All of the prisons in operation at that time required prisoners in participate in weekly group counseling and individual therapy sessions. These programs were designed to build character, explore the motivations of their actions, instill discipline and good work habits.The success of these programs were reflected in the less than 50% recidivism rate that was somewhere in the area of 40 to 45% or less. The prison system was relatively successful at that time which supported by the historical record.In 1976 the California Prison Movement compelled the abolition of the Indeterminate Sentencing Legislation (ISL) by the California Prison Movement compelled the abolition of the Indeterminate Sentencing Legislation (DSL) with passage and signing into law by Governor Brown, Senate Bill 42. The progressive legislators and the prison reformists who supported them, viewed the implementation of SB 42 as progressive prison reform and a positive move toward equal application of the law when determining the parole of prisoners regardless of race, gender or religion.
However from the perspective of the distance of time it can be said there were draconian-minded, right wing legislators who were operating with a hidden agenda to nullify or reverse the progressive/liberal aspects of SB 42. With the implementation of SB 42, it was accompanied by the conservative shift of mission focus from rehabilitation to punishment. Continue Reading →