Corrections Realignment Without Vote

Commentary

JUNE 7, 2011

By KATY GRIMES

State Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate announced at a news conference earlier today that the corrections department will begin moving on realignment plans, even without voter or legislative approval on Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment proposal, in order to reduce inmate population in California’s prisons.

Confidence is a good thing, but confidence brimming with known assurances is audacity.

“What we’ve said is we’re going to move forward with this plan and we’ll ask for more time if we need it,” Cate said at the news conference. And Cate called for legislative passage of the tax extensions to pay for the CDCR realignment plan because he said, the CDCR can’t afford to wait for voter approval.

“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today submitted a report to the federal Three-Judge Court updating it on prison crowding reduction measures that the state has taken, or plans to take, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on May 23, 2011. This decision requires California to reduce inmate crowding within its 33 adult institutions to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years, or by May 24, 2013,” The corrections department reported earlier today.

Cate appeared condifent that this current Legislature would vote in favor of funding AB 109, the law which will shifts inmates convicted of “non-serious,” nonviolent and non-sexual offenses, to county jails.

Despite the governor’s pledge that AB 109 wouldn’t take effect until state officials secure funding for county jails, it appears that Cate and the corrections department are already making the move.

“AB 109 will address the problem, if funded,” said Cate, the head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. And Cate said that Brown has assured sheriff’s that he will find a way to do it. “The Governor is doing everything he can do – cajoling and pressuring the Legislature to do the right thing,” said Cate.

Cate also said that because of overcrowding, “the Legislature needs to fully support construction…” of new prisons. It appeared to be a statement, not a request.

The state’s 33 prisons are housing nearly 143,000 inmates – crowding at nearly 200% of what the state’s prisons were designed to hold, according to Cate.

The CDCR has a master plan available on its website, which includes new construction plans.

The CDCR website reports, According to the Supreme Court’s decision, effective May 24, 2011, the inmate population statewide in California’s 33 adult prisons must be no more than:
• 167 percent of design capacity by November 28, 2011,

• 155 percent of design capacity by May 24, 2012,

• 147 percent of design capacity by November 26, 2012,

• 137.5 percent of design capacity by May 24, 2013.

Proving that law enforcement unions are dictating terms to the state, the CDCR website also reports that “Realignment is supported by law enforcement including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, California Peace Officers’ Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, Chief Probation Officers of California, Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Union and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.”

Cate played down the benefits of using out-of-state prisons to alleviate the burden to California’s overcrowded, over-funded prison system, but couldn’t entirely avoid the issue.

Calling out-of-state prison deals “cumbersome,” when asked what kind of authority was needed to expand the contracts, Cate said that the Legislature could extend the June 30 sunset date, and then admitted that the emergency order under which the CDCR is currently operating, overrides even the Legislature, and is all that is needed to continue using out-of-state prisons.

But that won’t do in California, where prison guards and correctional officers are king and financially contribute greatly to legislators on both sides of the aisle. California needs police departments and prisons, but when the unions representing correctional employees are sponsoring legislation and writing laws benefitting their contracts, job descriptions, and working conditions, the tail is wagging the dog.

The CDCR has a full department devoted to the Legislature which “develops and sponsors legislation on behalf of the CDCR.”

In a Jan. 2010 CalWatchdog story about the CDCR and out-of-state prison contracts, I reported that California’s in-state prisoner costs run $50,000 per prisoner per year, while out-of-state prisoners cost $23,000 per prisoner per year.

The CDCR has tried to gloss over the massive cost disparity because to acknowledge it would shine a light on the luxurious CDCR employment contracts, salaries, benefits and pensions.

The other waffle was when Cate was asked why the CDCR didn’t deport the prisoners who are also illegal aliens. “You’re talking about releasing them early – not just deporting them. That’s another layer of concern,” said Cate. One would assume that automatic deportation for being convicted of a crime is punishment – at the very least, it’s a wicked inconvenience.

The confidence exuded by Cate over the support of the Governor and the Legislature was shameless, and frankly, should anger legislators, unless it is already a done-deal. And if it is, the inmates really are running the asylum.

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  1. Centurion
    Centurion 8 June, 2011, 06:24

    “Proving that law enforcement unions are dictating terms to the state…”

    It’s not the law enforcement unions dictating the terms Katie. It’s the 9th Circuit court.

    As for it bein cheaper to house our inmates out of state? We do not send our death row or maximum security or SHU prisoners out of state. These inmates require expensive secure buildings with cells with locking doors and a higher ratio of officers because they are dangerous.

    The ones we send out of state are the less dangerous ones that can live in open dorms. They require less supervision which mean less officers which means it’s cheaper to house them. They can walk to a dining hall or to a recreation yard without the need for armed officers standing over them.

    So yes Katie, it IS much cheaper to house inmates in open dorms than in closed housing units.

    Reply this comment
  2. Bravoman
    Bravoman 8 June, 2011, 17:54

    Ya, What Centurion said!

    Reply this comment

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