In January of 2006, the Senate Bill 618 was passed in the state of California, initiated by the San Diego District Attorney’s office. Before this time, offenders in California were posing many difficulties to society both economically and in regards to safety. In the 90s, there was an increase in the number of ex-offenders being paroled. Consequently, there were issues regarding re-entering into society. Since there were so many people pleading for parole, officers and other public workers in California had a lot of work to do for which they weren’t necessarily prepared. This increase in number resulted in the jails requiring more employees, more parole board meetings and more people involved in the entire process of returning offenders into society.
When the community realized this was impractical, given the amount of people they had to assess, many people were forced to remain in prison. The number of people in prison heightened due to these new Californian policies in relation to parole. This now cause other unexpected issues. First, offenders were locked up for longer periods of time than originally planned. Rehabilitation programs were also cut back on budget because of this high number and issues were not addressed properly. The purpose of the Senate Bill 618 was to make this process more efficient, allowing the offenders to plead for parole without having any issues in regards to anything else that was involved or required. In general, the situations beforehand were impacting the community in a negative way, so laws were passed, hoping to fix all of this.
This bill was designed based on evidence and with efficient practices. In sum, it aimed at providing support services to nonviolent offenders, recognizing that if they made amends for their crimes, they should be granted the opportunity to plead for parole. The Senate Bill 618 is different from other bills or laws in a number of ways. First, the needs of the offender would be assessed before the prison sentence. Second, motivational techniques were implemented into the bill. Before, the parole officers and other people involved did not take much care in the actual mentality of the people involved in the process, but the new bill was able to make it more personal and catered to the individual’s needs. Finally, the bill allowed support to be provided to the individual, such as from a family member. This ensured that the offender did not feel alone and could have someone familiar to talk to regarding any personal problems.
In general, the program was considered moderately successful. When it was first passed, leaders involved designed a strict program that would allow them to track various data sets to see if they reached the goals they had originally sought out to achieve. This was measured through uniform and organized data and compared often to see how everything was improving. One important aspect that was assessed were the characteristics of participants. In general, everyone pleading for parole would be placed into a certain category and once enough people had participated with the new act, the data would be compared with multiple people. Then, conclusions could be made about the personalities of these people, the crimes they had committed, how much effort they put into the parole process and what they did for society after they were released. If it seemed like many of them put in a lot of effort during and after the process, the people involved would consider the program successful and target the most beneficial areas. Then, they would also be able to point out weaknesses and get feedback, looking for ways to improve the program.
The Senate Bill 618 focused largely on helping ex-offenders integrate into society. This would include various social worker programs such as counseling other forms of therapy (for example, if they were involved in alcohol or substance abuse during their crimes) and motivational techniques. The offenders would also be encouraged to come up with ways to help their community and would be assisted with parole compliance. Those involved in the activities of this bill quickly realized that in order to have successful re-entry, the offenders had to be addressed personally. This is why the data was categorized and why those analyzing it paid great attention to detail. It was important to recognize that all of these situations would be unique and therefore, they had to have workers who were willing to be very flexible in regards to helping the offenders. The Senate Bill 618 only lasted 6 years until 2012. It was revoked again due to budget issues. The processes involved in the bill were very elaborate, so they required a lot of employees and other people to come to aid, which wasn’t exactly cost-effective for the system as a whole. Unfortunately, it had to be taken away, yet it successfully operated for a while after it was originally passed.
A significant issue that the state of California was faced with in regards to parole was how to make this process the most efficient. Before the bill was even passed, they tried both ways of handling the equation—one where they were more lenient and one where they were more strict. When parole was offered to too many people, they suffered economically from all of the employees they had to recruit to help these offenders return to society. When parole was restricted, there were too many people who needed to be supported in jail, forced to remain there for longer than originally planned. The Senate Bill 618 was designed specifically to facilitate the process. However, it was again eventually evoked for economic reasons. Perhaps all of the different aspects of this bill contributed to the extreme burden it placed on the budget, forcing them to amend it. The program was definitely detailed and data-oriented. Despite this, it could have been slightly simplified in regards to the amount of people who were involved. Then, it may not have been removed. In order to assess this, more data regarding the conditions of parole before and after would have to be analyzed. This information could be used to create a bill with longevity in mind, recognizing that external factors, such as the economy, will always come into play and therefore, California should keep that in mind when passing laws.
- Mulmat, D. H., & Burke, C. (n.d.). Addressing Offender Reentry: Lessons Learned From Senate Bill 618 San Diego Prisoner Reentry Program.