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Is California too broke to punish prisoners?

Here is one of those pieces that is more remarkable for who says it than for what is said:

Add sensible safety laws to the list of things that California can no longer afford.

Forty-three other states and the federal government have laws forbidding the possession of cell phones in prisons. These other states have decided that the risks of allowing inmates to use cell phones - and occasionally to set up other crimes on the outside - outweighs the costs of punishment. In California, even though prison officials confiscate thousands of phones from inmates every year, the Legislature isn't sure we can afford to make phone smuggling or possession illegal.

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The bill makes perfect sense, but it's being held in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The reason? Cost - the Department of finance estimates that the bill could create thousands of dollars in additional costs per inmate.

We understand that the state is broke. But we have to find a way to outlaw a dangerous practice that has been addressed by nearly every other state.

That all makes perfect sense, right?  It appears on a page that rarely makes sense in the criminal justice field, the main editorial page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Yes, SF Chron, our state government is seemingly too broke to perform the function that people created government for in the first place -- ensuring public safety.  We are not too broke for high-speed rail boondoggles.  We are not too broke to restrict sources of energy, drive business out of the state, and thereby further erode the tax base.  We are not too broke to pay University of California administrators stratospheric compensation.  We are not too broke to subsidize major league sports teams.  We are not too broke for California taxpayers to provide a UC Death Penalty Clinic that represents murderers in Alabama.

We are only too broke to perform the number one function of state government.

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