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January 15, 2012

New talk in California of cutting prison spending by more than $1,100,000,000

As reported in this front-page piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, headlined "Gov. Jerry Brown plans $1 billion in prison cuts," there is serious talk of some serious budget cuts to the most expensive state prison system in the nation. Here are excerpts:

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut state prison spending next fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade, a departure from the goals of recent administrations, which consistently increased corrections spending and pushed for prison expansion.

Brown's budget would save California $1.1 billion on housing inmates and hundreds of millions more by allowing the state to halt some prison construction - savings largely due to his administration's recent overhaul of the state's criminal justice system.

General fund spending on prisons nearly doubled under Brown's Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from $5.2 billion in 2004 to $9.5 billion in 2011, when Brown, a Democrat, took office. The increase in spending was largely caused by an exploding inmate population and a court order to improve medical care in prisons.

The general fund is backed by statewide taxes and pays for most of the government's basic programs, including schools, police, welfare services and other programs. A cut in prison spending makes more dollars available for other programs....

Under Brown's spending proposal, released Jan. 5, general fund spending on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would decline from this year's budget of $9.8 billion to $8.7 billion, largely because the state prison population has fallen nearly 1,000 a week since Oct. 1, when the state shifted responsibility for lower level offenders to county law enforcement, a policy known as realignment.

"I don't think there's any question we've turned a corner here ... just by the fact that we are significantly reducing the prison population," said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, a nonprofit that conducts policy analysis on criminal justice issues....

Just one year ago, California was grappling with a court order to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates and was moving forward with 13 construction projects to expand prison capacity. Now, the prison population is at 130,000, a decrease of 11,000 in six months. State officials met the first benchmark set by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the prison population and say they are on track to meet the next one as well, as thousands of offenders that would have flowed into the overcrowded system are staying in county jails instead and being supervised by local probation officials rather than state parole officers.

In addition to halting construction projects, Brown next year wants to begin phasing out the state's Division of Juvenile Justice and place the state's most violent youth offenders in county facilities. And after years of cuts to rehabilitation programs in prisons, Brown wants lawmakers to restore about $100 million in funding for drug treatment, education and other services....

Republican critics of the governor's realignment plan continue to warn that the change will have dire public safety consequences, while county law enforcement officers are still worried about whether realignment funding -- $400 million this year and nearly $860 million next year -- will be consistent or adequate to meet their expanded responsibilities.

County officials and juvenile justice experts are glad that the governor has proposed putting off severe budget cuts to the juvenile justice system this fiscal year, but they worry about the ability of counties to handle the population in the future.

Advocates who oppose prison spending are heartened by Brown's decision to scrap several construction projects, but say the governor isn't going far enough.  Under Brown's proposal, the state would stop the conversion of two former juvenile facilities into adult prisons, which together would have cost nearly $500 million to build.  Officials expect to save about $250 million a year in debt service on bonds by canceling those projects.

As I have suggested before, anyone and everyone who is interested in the relationships between sentencing and corrections policies and crimes rates ought to be keeping a very close watch (and trying to assemble lots of data) in California over the next decade.  

January 15, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Permalink

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Comments

How about cutting salary and pension and health benefits and making retirement reforms. That will save BILLIONS more. While you're at it change the rules that allow OT and require things like two guards per inmate when outside the prison.

Posted by: DeanO | Jan 15, 2012 4:49:12 PM

123D. Costs next to nothing to shoot a repeat violent offender in the back of the head. Leaves nearly no crime because the criminals are gone before age 18. Only the rent seeking lawyer has trouble with that formula. Also solves the problem of innocence in the death penalty. Even if the third violation is false, you are still executing a very bad person. Innocence does not matter to the safety of the public and to the 17,000 murders victims the criminals are taking from us. Only the rent seeking lawyer fails to care about this mass slaughter, year after year, concentrated in the black community, thanks to the racist feminist lawyer and its male running dogs on the bench.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 16, 2012 1:03:38 AM

'Costs next to nothing to shoot a repeat violent offender in the back of the head'

that's the best you can come up with...maybe living in Syria or Somalia would be more to your liking

Posted by: comment | Jan 16, 2012 1:02:56 PM

We have a slimmed down, introductory version of 123D. TalkLeft commented on it not to long ago.

ACLU Crunches Guantanamo Numbers

Posted by: George | Jan 17, 2012 1:50:02 AM

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