Jon Stewart grills Gavin Newsom on California prison reform: ‘We have a public that demands certainty’

Talk show host Jon Stewart grilled California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on his plans to reform the state’s most notorious prison into a rehabilitation center in a new interview released on Friday.

Newsom announced his plans last week to transform San Quentin State Prison into the “most innovative rehabilitation facility” in the country, drawing inspiration from countries like Norway that have low recidivism rates.

However, Stewart pushed the California governor on the inherent problems that exist, and will likely remain, in the criminal justice system.

He pointed to the issue of parole, noting that in one case, a nonviolent offender was denied parole for stealing some fabric thread and borrowing a hair straightener, while in another, an offender was released on parole and killed a police officer.


“We have a system that cannot tell the difference, and we have a public that demands certainty,” Stewart said in a sit-down interview with Newsom at San Quentin State Prison for the latest episode of “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”

Newsom acknowledged that the prison system treats two such offenders similarly.

“We still have the same dungeonous rooms for those two perpetrators you just described — one that’s benign, not particularly violent nor particularly problematic, and others that have every reason to be considered a concern,” he said.

“We haven’t evolved. There’s no innovation,” Newsom continued. “We talk about reform. We don’t talk about innovation in the criminal justice system.”

Stewart also questioned the California governor on whether his talk of reform is giving prisoners “false hope,” given the roadblocks they will likely face when they leave incarceration.

“The stigma is real, but I think … the internal shame and the internal stigma is even more pronounced,” Newsom said, pointing to the way in which prison programs can boost inmates’ confidence.

“But as a society, you’re right, 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,” he added.

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