Last week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested that the state could save $1 billion by building prisons in Mexico to house California's undocumented prisoners. Said the governor during the press conference:

We pay them to build the prisons down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison. ... And all this, it would be half the cost to build the prisons and half the cost to run the prisons.

If that idea sounds half baked, it's because it probably was. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the idea caught his prisons czar offguard, and a spokesman said he hadn't a clue where the governor got the billion-dollar savings figure.

No doubt California (and the rest of the US, for that matter) could use some creative thinking about our astronomically expensive and inefficient prison system, but it'd be much more effective to consider prison reform ideas that are actually proven to work. For example: In the current issue of Mother Jones, Beth Schwartzapfel writes about a program that hooks prisoners up with green jobs—and saves taxpayers money at the same time. Through the Sustainable Prisons Project, inmates at four prisons in Washington state compost cafeteria waste, sort recycling, work on organic vegetable gardens, keep bees, and help local scientists with environmental research. (Who has time to watch moss grow? Well, prisoners.) Beats the heck out of making license plates, and all their work is paying off:

The Department of Corrections has provided Evergreen with a $300,000 grant to administer and run the newly christened Sustainable Prisons Project. It's led to savings that Pacholke is happy to rattle off: By conserving water, Cedar Creek avoided a previously planned $1.4 million expansion of its wastewater treatment facility; by recycling and composting, another facility sent two-thirds less waste to landfills this year—garbage can cost upwards of $100 per ton to haul.

Read Mother Jones' in-depth coverage of America's broken (and broke) prison system here.



Need to Read: February 1, 2010

 The must-read news from around the web and in today's papers:

Kora Records

This sophomore effort by Swedish indie rockers Fredrik is actually a compilation of three EPs: Holm, Ava, and Ner, which translate roughly to "frozen forest island," "water through sound," and "the inside underground." In 2006, Fredrik made a splash within the American experimental rock circuit, so Trilogi, released last week, will probably do well among Animal Collective and Sigur Rós fans. Complete with a low-fi music box, sparse mandolin, and gentle harmonies, it is ethereal and enchanting. On first listen, it rises above run-of-the-mill psych-folk sensations like the Decemberists. And yet, I'm not entirely sold.

Trilogi was my introduction to Fredrik, which is apparently its very own ethos—to the point where I half expected the musicians to break into their own elfin sister tongue. The press notes describe the record as "contemporized viewpoints of the Lovecraftian dream passage—orientation at great cost and understanding at the risk of sanity." Huh? Each EP "was surreptitiously self-released on highly limited 3" CDs in hand made origami packaging," the notes explain.

Jacqui Naylor may be the most conventional and unconventional jazz singer on the scene today. Her smoky alto and syncopated interpretations are straight out of the Billie Holiday playbook. But her song choices, which include rock covers and genre-mixed tunes, are anything but.

This duality was on full display last Thursday as she wowed Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, California. After opening with a couple of straightforward tunes celebrating life and love, she launched into an eclectic set that included a slow, sultry version of Prince's "Kiss," and "Summertime" sung over the musical line for Greg Allman's "Whipping Post" (a mashup style she likes to call "acoustic smashing").

Along the way, she bantered wittily with her talented backup musicians—a keyboardist/guitarist, bass player, and drummer—and unveiled a few surprises. The director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, recipient of half the proceeds of the benefit show, gave a heartfelt speech. And there was a cutesy moment when Naylor invited an 11-year old to jam out on keyboard and guitar with her band.

Republicans and Jobs

Here's the latest from Washington DC:

President Obama wants Congress to quickly approve a jobs bill in the range of $100 billion, a top White House official said Sunday, reflecting the growing political anxiety among Democrats about stubbornly high unemployment in an election year.

....Democrats hope to win Republican support for the measure by including tax cuts for small businesses, a GOP favorite. The tax credit is designed to encourage businesses to hire workers....Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on "Late Edition" that as long as the legislation creates jobs, "we're willing to take a look at it."

I would like to go on record now with a prediction that this jobs bill will get zero Republican votes no matter what's in it. Anyone care to take the other side of that bet?