Moraga, CA – It was once a sleepy town outside of Oakland but the quiet has been shattered by a spiraling crime rate. A confluence of socio-economic trends aggravated by the lingering recession have shattered the once quiet calm as citizens either became victims or criminals. But these same economic realities conspired to cut deep gouges in the town’s ability to employ law enforcement officers or incarcerate offenders. Property crimes have skyrocketed over 120% and violent crimes have risen by 55%. The drug trade is now the commercial lifeblood of the municipality.
“Basically, I’ve got 2 criminals in town for every law-abiding citizen,” said Sheriff Joe Stafford. “I can’t lock up all the criminals, and this is California so it’s not like the people could shoot the criminals themselves; so I did what I could to protect the good people of this town.” And with that Sheriff Stafford locked-up the remaining innocent people Moraga. Now some 25,00 residents are locked-up behind thirty-foot walls topped by razor wire and heavily-armed guards manning towers every 50 meters.
“It makes sense,” said Sheriff Stafford defending his decision. “They’re well-defended, they get 3 meals a day and plenty of yard time. In fact a lot of former couch potatoes have started lifting weights. It’s really helped with overall health and fitness levels.” However, recent budget cuts meant the citizens’ access to cable TV has been cut.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Earlier this month a gang of teenagers were caught vandalizing the cells of older residents and had to be released back into town. “They were just bored kids,” said department spokesperson Patricia Estrada. “We hated to set them free but what could we do?”
The measure was not without controversy as the ACLU was quick to condemn the policy. Ellen Cisneros, leader of the Sacramento based regional office of the civil rights law firm blasted the program. “Thousands of criminals have been left without any means of support. They have no one to cook their meals, provide healthcare or other basic services and by locking up all potential vicitims in the prison Sheriff Stafford has taken away their only source of income. They have been forced to become completely self-reliant. This is not what America is supposed to be about.”
She said the ACLU planned to file a lawsuit against Sheriff Stafford and the town of Moraga demanding that they re-imprison the town’s criminal population complete with back-dated sentences and reduced parole releases.