Out-of-state prison costs soar

January 26, 2010 - By admin

Jan. 26, 2010

By KATY GRIMES

The price tag for California’s out-of-state prisoners has jumped in three years from $20 million in late 2006, to $630 million in 2009-10.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as well as the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) addressed rising out-of-state prisoner costs in a recent hearing by the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review.

California was ordered in 2006 by the federal government to relieve the overcrowding in California prisons, which at the time, was nearly 200 percent of planned prison capacity, according to Scott Kernan with the CDCR. The recent final federal order was issued Jan. 13, 2010 by a three-judge District Court panel requiring a cut in prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years — a reduction of approximately 40,000 inmates.

In 2006, citing severe overcrowding in California’s prisons, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an emergency executive order allowing the CDCR to send California prisoners to out-of-state prisons. The order waived the usual state competitive bid process. In the first year, the CDCR moved 1,000 prisoners to five different out-of-state prisons under a contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), creating another state bureaucracy according to Assemblywoman Audra Strickland.

The cost to move, house,  feed, clothe and treat 1,000 prisoners in 2006 was $20 million. The proposed 2010 budget includes $630 million to care for 10,468 out-of-state prisoners.

Paul Golaszewski, a policy analyst with the LAO addressed the committee regarding the CDCR’s existing budget as well as its request for additional funds. Golaszewski broke down the costs of the out-of-state prisoners to $63 per bed, per day at four of the prisons, and $72 per bed, per day at one facility. Golaszewski stated that in the daily cost however, was not included the travel and oversight costs by the seventy CDCR employees charged with traveling monthly to each of the out-of-state prisons to monitor California’s prisoners.

California’s in-state prisoner costs run $50,000 per prisoner per year; however, out-of-state prisoners cost $23,000 per prisoner per year. Members of the committee attempted to get ferret out these budget inequities but were unable. Kernan did offer that the $23,000 figure is based on the overcrowding figures and the $50,000 amount is based on the prison plan design costs. The LAO does not have a base number for calculating the cost of California’s prisoners, according to Golaszewski.

At issue was not only the expanding budget, but that the CDCR does not use the state’s mandatory competitive bid process for contracting out-of-state prisons.  Assemblyman Juan Arambula expressed great concern during the hearing that the CDCR three years later, was still not using or even proposing to use the competitive bid process for contracting with the out-of-state prisons. He repeatedly asked CDCR representative Kernan to explain if California was getting the best deal possible without using the competitive bid process. Kernan referred him back to the governor’s emergency order. Kernan said that since the competitive bid process takes seven to nine months from beginning to end, the CDCR cannot spare the time as they must have the ability to move very fast “to pick the cheapest and best product” for the prisoners. He defended CDCR’s choice of CCA for the out-of-state prison contractor as “they had the right price and the inventory” available for California’s prisoners.

Assemblyman Dave Jones concurred, “The emergency can’t run forever as it happened some time ago,” and instead suggested that the Legislature put constraints on the governor’s emergency powers through a bill.

Both Assembly members De La Torre and Audra Strickland questioned Kernan whether the CDCR will be firing in-state prison employees since at least 8,000 prisoners have been moved out-of-state. They asked Kernan to break down the costs of the 70 prison employees who travel out-of-state as well as why prison oversight is needed when the out-of-state prisons are staffed appropriately. Strickland suggested that the CDCR could find a way streamlining bureaucracy and stated again that she did not understand the need for additional staff just because the cost of the out-of-state prisoners is one-third less than California’s.  Kernan explained that out-of-state staff/prisoner ratios are far below that of the CDCR.

Arambula asked Kernan how California can have “an emergency year after year,” and why the CDCR does not have the time to employ more customary bidding procedures.  Kernan explained that since California has not been able to build more prisons to add capacity, overcrowding is still at an emergency level in the state.

With growing frustration, Arambula said, “It is apparent that the CDCR has grown accustomed to operating outside of the rules in what looks like a sweetheart deal.”

De La Torre added, “We don’t write blank checks,” and concluded that the emergency made it necessary to act quickly but, “we’ve been down that road a few times over the last few years.”

Comments(6)
  1. Peyton Farquhar says:

    Remove health care, gold plated education, and recreation from these criminals. They live better than people who have jobs. In fact, let’s abolish prison for low level offenders and enforce a *real* punishment…make them work at a minimum wage paying job and try to live and pay taxes with the wages.

  2. koa2341 says:

    Rather than foreign aid, why not just send them to Pakistan or some like place and pay them to take care of this problem

  3. SHERRIE says:

    EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE PRISONERS THEY ARE STILL HUMAN BEINGS AND NEED THE BASIC ESSENTIALS , LIKE HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION AND SOME FORM OF RECREATION, I HOPE THE PERSON WHO SUGGEST THESE THINGS BE TERMINATED, NEVER HAS TO GO TO PRISON GET ILL AND NEED A DR. SOME PEOPLE MAKE STUPID MISTAKES WHILE THEY ARE YOUNG , REGRETTING THEM NOW AS THEY GROW OLDER.

  4. kryssy says:

    i agree with sherrie. its mistakes they made and got caught. not everyone in prison is a murderer or rapist etc. no one knows the circumstances therefore “sending them away and abolishing resources like health care etc for them” is cruel. i believe in justice but who are we to deprive them no matter what they have done

  5. Phil says:

    THEY NEED THE BARE ESSENTIALS?

    WAKE UP SWEETIE MOST OF US IN THE REAL WORLD DONT HAVE HEALTHCARE!

  6. Will says:

    I have never stole from a store, robbed a person, vandalized property, touched a child inappropriately, killed anybody, etc. As a matter of fact I am 30 now & I have had a job since I was 17 years old (minus incarcerated years), I pay my taxes, & I have a bachelors degree from a Cal State school. Because the state says I cant do drugs I recently did my first prison term. During that time I developed a staph infection. I had never had one my entire life. I put requests in for 7 CONSECUTIVE DAYS for a doctor to see me to no avail. As a matter of fact the only reason why I was able to finally see a nurse was because my cell was unlocked for my celly to get his medicine. Well the nurse that saw my infection immediately sent me to the prison doctor. Within 15 minutes of seeing the prison’s doctor paperwork was being prepared for me to go to a hospital out of the prison in Bakersfield. There I was immediately placed on IV antibiotics and kept there for 13 days. The (real) doctor said that I was about 1 more day from actually losing my leg. When I was finally taken back to the prison I asked why they never responded to my medical requests. I was told that there were other inmates with more urgent medical conditions and that there is just not enough time to see everybody. Really? Was losing my leg not that urgent?
    The bottom line is there really is a crisis going on in California prisons, too many to list here, but the health care issue is one of the biggest in my opinion. There is just not enough doctors for the amount of inmates. One single doctor on duty for a prison of over 5000 inmates? Really? Inmates were in pretty harsh conditions.
    I dont know where I’m going with this rant. I definitely take offense to those who are ignorant to prisoners needs and just say things like “lock ‘em up and loose the key” or other b.s. like that. Who are you to judge me? I hope that my story here changes some peoples perspective on inmates and we’re not all like the level 4 killers that are glamorized on shows like N.B.C.’s “Lockup”. If I lived in other countries I wouldn’t even have a misdemeanor crime on my record. I could go on forever about this.
    Thank you for letting me share.

News Archive

Archive By Categories
  • Budget and Finance
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Infrastructure
  • Inside Government
  • Life in California
  • Politics and Elections
  • Regulations
  • Rights and Liberties
  • Waste, Fraud and Abuse