Democrats are on the verge of a fundamental shift in the regional balance of political power. If that old adage still holds true, then the nation may soon see a gradual backpedaling from the criminal justice policies that have led to wholesale incarceration in recent decades. Now, as California's politicians contemplate emergency cuts to deal with a $24 billion hole in the state budget, old certainties are crumbling. The state with the toughest three-strikes law in the land and a prison population of more than 150,000 is facing the real possibility of having to release tens of thousands of inmates early in order to pare its $10 billion annual correctional budget. At the same time, an increasing number of the state's political figures are challenging the basic tenets of the "war on drugs," the culprit most responsible for the spike in prison populations over the past thirty years; they argue that the country's harsh drug policies are not financially viable and no longer command majority support among the voting public.