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It's Too Soon to Judge Brown's Prison Deal

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It's Too Soon to Judge Brown's Prison Deal

Los Angeles Times

080327.ME.0409.prison03.RED--VACAVILLE, Ca-- A prison guard walks along a main corridor at Calfornia Medical Facility, Vacaville, one of the older facilities in the california Pprison system. For a story on the power of the prison guards union

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Since Prop Zero is a blog, this is an odd place to warn against the rush to judgment. We're the pot calling the kettle black when we say such things.

But still, it needs to be said that the harsh judgment of Gov. Jerry Brown's new contract with the prison guards' union is premature.

Yes, Brown's contract doesn't save as much money as he had promised in his budget. And it may have hidden costs that start showing up too soon. But it's too soon to evaluate the deal because we don't know the payoff: What did Brown get for giving the guards a contract? And what might he get in the future?

If Brown can get the prison guards to go along with changes to criminal sentencing or to the budget that save billions, then millions of extra goodies in this contract are a bargain. If the governor can get the union to support -- or at least not stand in the way -- of structural reform that restores democracy and common-sense budgeting to California, then this contract will seem cheap.

The hard question, thus, is not about this contract, but about Brown's plans for bigger reform -- or his apparent lack of them. In the current budget debate, there has been far too much attention paid to small things that don't impact the budget very much, from Brown's announcements of savings to this deal. The budget and governance crisis is a big thing. The small things only matter in the context of whether Brown can help deliver real solutions to the big problem.

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