California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a budget crisis and is planning to release thousands of prisoners early to help save money -- and it sounds like the prisoners are mostly criminals who shouldn't (ideally) have been in jail in the first place.

In what may be the largest early release of inmates in U.S. history, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is proposing to open the prison gates next year for some 22,000 low-risk offenders.

According to details of a budget proposal made available to The Bee, the administration will ask the Legislature to authorize the release of certain non-serious, nonviolent, non-sex offenders who are in the final 20 months of their terms.

The proposal would cut the prison population by 22,159 inmates and save the cash-strapped state an estimated $256 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and more than $780 million through June 30, 2010. The proposal also calls for a reduction of more than 4,000 prison jobs, most of them involving correctional officers.

The only reason "non-serious, nonviolent, non-sex offenders" are in prison is because our society has for whatever reason forbidden almost every other form of punishment. In my opinion, non-violent criminals should generally not be imprisoned at all, but should instead be made to suffer "alternative" punishments like fines, public humiliation, community service, hard labor, and various forms of non-maiming physical punishment. It's hard for people to accept, but sometimes the human animal needs a good beating to learn a lesson.

In any event, since there aren't many alternative punishments available I expect this prisoner release program to lead to an uptick in crime and a reduced respect for law and order.

Also significant is the huge cut in jobs for correctional officers. Non-Californians may not be aware, but the correctional officer union is the most powerful public sector union in the state and donates massive amounts of money to the Democrats. This indicates to me that Schwarzenegger is trying to strike a political blow for his party while simultaneously saving the state money. Very devious/convenient.

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