Jon Stewart Grills Governor Gavin Newsom Over Crime and Prison Reform: ‘I Want Real Public Safety’


Jon Stewart grilled California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) over prison reform during a sit-down interview at San Quentin State Prison.

On the latest episode of The Problem with Jon Stewart, the show dived into “America’s Incarceration Epidemic” with an interview featuring the governor.

Stewart pressed Newsom on if we’re giving prisoners false hope when it comes to certification processes prisoners can go through that don’t necessarily hold value outside of the prison system.

“Are we giving a false hope to a lot of the prisoners in here? Because a lot of what they say is, ‘What was I doing in there? I was told the path to redemption is along this certification process. And then I got out and this is meaningless. I’m considered a pariah and I can’t move on with my life,'” Stewart explained.

“The stigma is real. But I think the stigma and the internal shame and the internal stigma is even more pronounced,” Newsom said. “I think you heard from a young man in there says, he put his name in a byline of the newspaper and he sent it to his mom — first time he said his mom’s ever been proud of him. That’s a kid whose mind is stretched now. It’s not about the certificate. It’s not even about the program.”

Newsom further explained how the internal prison programs help boost the confidence of inmates.

“Now of a sudden he’s found something he never thought he had, which is some self-respect, not just self-loathing, thinks he might actually be worthy. And all of a sudden his mind has shifted. And I see people doing well on the outside, across the spectrum. I just hired two folks up in Sacramento that are working in an office that spend time, quite literally right here, that are doing extraordinary work,” Newsom said.

Stewart highlighted that Newsom wants to turn the prison system from a factory system into something “more human.”

“But you can’t treat them as humans when they live in this alien, dehumanizing factory environment. This system isn’t built to cherish each individual and get them to see their own worth. This is built to keep them from killing each other while they’re in here,” Stewart said.

“We have to actually believe in the core tenets of what we practice in our faith and that’s second damn chances and redemption and the ability to turn your life around,” Newsom said.

Stewart moved the conversation to parole, highlighting two inmates with very different parole outcomes.

Mary Reese — you wanted to commute her sentence. You sent her back to a parole board. She’s been in prison for a series of burglaries. Not nothing, but clearly not a violent offender,” Stewart explained.

“She failed her parole hearing based on having borrowed, I think hair jail from another prisoner and some other things. And on the flip side of it, you have an offender who was let out and killed a police officer,” Stewart said.

“Devastating,” Newsom said.

“We have a system that cannot tell the difference. And we have a public that demands certainty,” Stewart said.

Newsom said the problem centered on a lack of innovation in the criminal justice system.

“That person that killed the police officer, the district attorney accused me of being responsible for that. I live the realities. I don’t know them. It’s not intellectual. I’m living them,” Newsom clarified.

“And that puts you on your heels,” Stewart pressed.

“It didn’t put me on the heels. Actually put me on my toes,” Newsom said. “I want public safety. I want real public safety. I want people to feel safe. It’s about your own self-interest. You want make sure your kids are safe. You are safe. You don’t have to turn your head when you’re getting the ATM machine.”

Watch above via The Problem with Jon Stewart.

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