Overcrowding and soaring corrections costs are pushing prison reform to the top of states’ policy agendas.
A couple of years ago, the state of California did something surprising. It changed the name of its Department of Corrections, tacking on the words “and Rehabilitation” to the agency’s title. It was a small step — the modification wasn’t accompanied by any sudden surge in funding for rehabilitation programs. But it was symbolically important nonetheless. Thirty years ago, the state officially recast the department’s mission from rehabilitation to incarceration and punishment. Since then, the idea of rehabilitating prisoners has been a much lower priority than locking up more of them. Now, with the state’s prisons bursting at the bars, that may be about to change.