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Dispatches from the Inside: Reductions in prisoners equals reductions in resources

California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation

Richard Gilliam is incarcerated at the California Men's Colony (CMC).

August 8, 2012

It's been slow in coming, but there have been some noticeable changes here, due to the state's realignment plan. We used to get a half-dozen big, green buses pulling in each week, disgorging thirty or forty new arrivals at a time. These days we might get one per week. Because of this, the population has decreased, reducing the number of prisoners in some dorms. 

In dorms like the one I'm assigned to, the population has been cut from ninety inhabitants to forty-five. I no longer have to stand in line in the mornings to brush my teeth, wash my face or perform other bodily functions. Along with this agreeable turn of events have come some not-so-welcome changes.

Because there is less money to spend, we no longer get fresh vegetables; everything is now processed, vendor provided, pre-packaged, sliced, diced and lacking both flavor or much in the way of nutrients. There are zero extracurricular activities such as self-help groups or educational programs, because the administration claims they can't spare extra staff for "security". When something breaks, it takes longer to repair. Sometimes a sink or heater will be out of service for weeks because fewer spare parts are kept in stock due to "cost-saving measures". In a curious move, staff recently reclaimed every bar of state-issued bar soap, and have yet to redistribute any. I for one depend on it to shower and wash with. No reason was given for its removal, but if it isn't redistributed soon, things are going to get ripe around here, not to mention unsanitary. 

There are too many incidental reductions to mention, less money for library books and educational supplies, a reduction of vocational opportunities and staffing. The end result is a reduction of resources in a place that didn't have enough to begin with.

Richard Gilliam