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Save millions by freeing sick, elderly convicts

<strong>By Thomas D. Elias</strong>

Sometimes it can take more than a decade for a completely sensible idea to catch on. So it is with what may be the single best money-saving idea in the preliminary budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

That idea, part of a Brown plan to appease a panel of federal judges, calls for the possible parole of several thousand convicts who are sick or mentally impaired, plus a new parole program for elderly prisoners. This is spurred by the judges’ demand for even more releases of state prison inmates than the 22,000-plus already returned to their counties.

That idea was first proposed to this column in 2002 by reader Ray Procunier, then a Grass Valley resident. Procunier, who died two years ago at age 86, was director of corrections in California under Gov. Reagan and during part of Brown’s first term in the 1970s. He also headed the prison systems of Texas and Utah.

“When Reagan was governor, we cut the prison population by one-third and there was no increase in crime, not even a blip,” Procunier said 11 years ago, responding to a column. “I guarantee I could cut down today’s prison population by 100,000 or more and not hurt a soul in the process.”


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