Criminal Justice Parole Policy Prison Policy

CRIMINAL JUSTICE III: Catch and Release Prisons


was the first female warden in the 148 year history of San Quentin State Prison before she was tapped by Arnold Schwarzenegger to head up California’s entire Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2004. In 2006, she retired, but she couldn’t stay away from the criminal justice biz so now she is Chief Adult Probation Officer of San Francisco.

Woodford was the lead speaker on the second day
of the three day conference put on by the Institute for Justice and Journalism and, like most of the speakers at yesterday’s session, she talked about ways that the California criminal justice system is broken.

But there are solutions, she said. They just require that we address some fundamental problems..

One of the main things, said Woodward,
is that we need to stop locking people up in droves, then giving them zero help when they’re inside so that when they’re paroled back into the community, they’re in worse not better shape, and the deck is stacked against them in terms of staying out of prison….and California maintains its 70 percent recidivism rate. “We have a catch and release form of justice, at a cost of $45,000 a year, which is what it costs to house an inmate.”

Fifty-percent of California inmates, she said, get no programs, no treatment, no rehabilitative help of any kind.

“Now with the budget crisis,” she said, “people are running around in a state of alarm because we’re going to release 22,000 low level offenders because of budget cuts. Well, it’s hard to be too concerned with the release of 22,000 low level offenders when the CDCR releases an estimated 10,000 inmates every month, many of whom are violent, mentally ill, not educated, and they have no preparation to succeed in the outside. And nearly all are released into fragile communities.

Woodford and several of the other speakers
pointed to the fact that in certain other areas of the country, officials have managed to drop their crime rate AND lower their prison population.

We know what works, she said.
“New York and Missouri are having phenomenal results. We need to look at these models and see how they can apply to California.”

Why, if we know what works, don’t we make it a point of implementing what we know?

“Money and politics.”
Mainly the latter “I believe there is plenty of money. It’s all in how we spend it. We have to identify our goals and then decide how we allocate our resources. ”

So why don’t we do that?

“Lawmakers are still too worried
about being labeled ‘soft on crime.”


  • Prisons are about punishment, the threat of which deters crime, and protecting society from criminals.

    I’m not against rehab, but some people will never be good, and it’s not the fault of their families, schools, or the prisons, and it’s not necessarily the job of the prisons. Some people are just rotten and evil.

    Rehab was not the original and intended function of prisons, and maybe they aren’t the best place for that.

    Make ’em go to church–the ones of which I approve.

  • Jeanne Woodford was the most contemporary, innovative and creative warden in California.

    My son, who is at San Quentin owes a debt of gratitude to her for bringing in hundreds of volunteer programs, including volunteers teaching college courses. He will be able to get an Associate degree rather than languishing in prison for at least 25 years for a non-violent offense, based on the CA 3-Strikes law. He is so proud that he is making all A’s. It makes him feel good about himself, even though there are some who cannot get beyond the ‘punishment only’ thinking.

    There is no cost to the taxpayers for these programs, because they are all volunteer and non-profit.

    My son also always works at some job inside, sometimes with no pay, sometimes at .08cents an hour. Slave labor for sure. But he is able to set goals for himself and look to the future. By the way, he also reads his Bible, and attends chapel. But I don’t know if it would come under the approval of Woody, a previous commenter.

    Prisoners, families and the CDCR lost a good thing when Ms. Woodford left, but I’m glad she is still working within the system. She has too much to offer to a very thirsty system to let her go…

  • @Woody, if prisons are a deterrent to crime why do we have 171,000 people plus in this state that don’t believe that? Thats like saying the death penalty deters homicide. There is close to 700 people on death roll right now that wasn’t deterred.

  • Woody justs like to recite what he hears on talk radio or from his Republican talking points. On another site he praised Reaagan ’cause everyone came to work in a suit! What a moron!

  • Jerry, if the prisons are revolving doors, then people are less afraid. Suppose we adopted the Islamic way and cut off hands of theives, hung homosexuals, and stoned adulterers. Do you think that punishment would be a deterrent then? What if we had public hangings? Of course, what you don’t know is how many crimes were avoided because of the fear of prison.

    rlc, it wasn’t about business casual day when I wrote about Reagan. It was about the respect that Reagan showed for the Office of the President and the Oval Office itself by insisting on the decorum of wearing suits there–unlike someone else who dropped his pants there and thought that the best place to cure cigar tobacco was inside an intern.

  • rlc, it wasn’t about business casual day when I wrote about Reagan. It was about the respect that Reagan showed for the Office of the President and the Oval Office itself by insisting on the decorum of wearing suits there–unlike someone else who dropped his pants there and thought that the best place to cure cigar tobacco was inside an intern.

    Certainly Reagan wouldn´t do something like, say, sell weapons to terrorists in order to finance a pet project war that Congress refused to fund. He´d have too much respect for the role of checks and balances in our government to do something like this and then claim that he couldn´t remember anything about it, would he?

    Or perhaps not.

    There are suits and there are empty suits.

  • The Democrats, if they had any sense of right and wrong, should be ashamed for backing communists and abandoning freedom fighters in central America simply for political and ideological reasons.

    No, Reagan knew nothing. Oliver North made that clear.

  • Actually, the Deomocrats knew who had the right to authorize war and who had the right to provide funding for the contras. Mining harbors in Nicaragua was an act of war. It was illegal, period. Having a rogue operation in the White House making an end run around the law was illegal, period. Since you´re on who always waxes rhapsodic about the value of obeying the law, you should either be offended or acknowledge your hypocrisy.

    As for your claim that Reagan knew nothing, how you can claim Reagan brought respect back to the White House while being completely oblivious about rogue operations taking place under his Director of NSC (Poindexter) and his chief subordinate (North) shows little more about anything than your own moral obtuseness.

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