CA inmate reduction plan shuns out-of-state prisons, other options

prison - California - CDCMay 9, 2013

By Katy Grimes

You’ve heard of the Millionaire Next Door? Now meet the Criminal Next Door.

In what appears to be a nod to the powerful prison guards union, California is shunning sending prison inmates to lower cost, out-of-state prisons to reduce the overcrowded prison population. Instead, it’s releasing “non-violent,” “non-sexual,” “low-level” criminals out onto the streets and into minor parole programs.

In the 2006 class-action case Coleman vs. Schwarzenegger, a three-judge U.S. District Court ordered a large cut in the prison population. It found that overcrowded prison conditions were the cause of severely inadequate inmate health care. The order also imposed a population cap on California’s prisons.

Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California sent prisoners to prisons in other states. The out-of-state prison cost savings over what it costs per bed in a California prison was significant. But since Gov. Jerry Brown was elected, this practice has been curtailed. Outsourcing of the state’s prisoners on a large scale apparently is not a politically feasible option for the Brown administration.

“Prison realignment” has been in the news since 2010, the year Brown was elected. In office, he immediately was faced with an ongoing federal court order to deal with California’s overcrowded prisons. But what exactly is prison realignment, what was it supposed to do, and is it working?

“Realignment” shift in thinking

In 2011, AB 109, the prison realignment law, was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Brown. AB 109 was supposed to shift “low-level,” “non-violent,” and “non-sexual” inmates from state prisons to county jails. Many inmates then were shifted to county probation departments for post-release supervision.

But AB 109 also required some felons released from prison be placed on post-release community supervision instead of state parole. A largely ignored result of AB 109 is that nearly half of these “non-violent offenders” had previously been incarcerated for serious crimes. But parole supervision is now based entirely on an inmate’s current conviction, not on cumulative crimes for which he had served prison time in the past.

Before the realignment law was passed, parole violators were transferred to state prisons, where they faced up to a year in custody. This no longer happens under prison realignment.

Release versus out-of-state prisons

Instead of releasing prisoners, California could reduce its corrections costs significantly by transferring inmates to lower-cost facilities out of state. “Expanding this strategy by transferring an additional 25,000 low- to medium-security inmates to such facilities—5,000 per year for five years—would result in an estimated savings of between $111 million and $120 million for the first year of the prisoner transfer plan, and between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion in savings by the end of year five,” according to a study by the Reason Foundation.

The study continued, “Based on correctional partnership experiences across the nation and the globe, California could reasonably and conservatively expect to realize cost savings of between 5 and 15% from outsourcing its correctional services. Applying this savings range to the state’s current (Fiscal Year 2009-10) corrections operating budget of $8,233,620,000 yields estimated savings of between $412 million and $1.24 billion per year….

“The potential savings may be even greater than this. First, California prison guards’ salaries and benefits are higher than those of their counterparts in other states, so contracting should realize greater personnel cost savings (particularly from fringe benefits) than in other places.

“Second, there is a large discrepancy in CDCR’s self-reported average costs per inmate per day and other data the agency has reported on its operational budget and inmate population, suggesting that the state may be underreporting its true per diem costs. California’s self-reported average cost per inmate per day is $133, but the cost calculated by simply dividing the correctional operating budget by the number of inmates is $162. By contrast, as noted above, the per diem rate received by private firms in recent contracts ranges from $60 to $75.”

Yet, California sends a much higher percentage of repeat offenders back to prisons and jails than other states.

Releasing prisoners has not worked

Fast forward to last week. Rather than using out-of-state prisons to help reduce California’s prison population, Brown’s administration told the federal court that the state Legislature would have to agree to dramatically restructure California’s corrections system.

Brown, under a threat of contempt of court by the federal judges if he did not implement a plan to meet the prison population cap by December, submitted a late-night report.

“In a 46-page brief filed shortly before midnight Thursday, state officials outlined how they would reduce the prison population by about 10,000 inmates over the next year, hoping to satisfy a three-judge panel that last month blasted the governor for failing to comply with a 2009 order requiring California to reduce its prison population to about 110,000 by this summer,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

California’s 33 prisons currently house 119,506 inmates. But the prisons were designed for 79,959 inmates. The federal court has ordered another 9,500 inmates cut by Dec. 31.

Brown recently filed a motion to vacate or modify the reduction order, but it was denied by the federal court.

Some rapists, molesters doing little or no time

Brown signed AB 109 only two years ago to “stop the costly, ineffective and unsafe ‘revolving door’ of lower-level offenders and parole violators through our state prisons.”

Republicans fought realignment, and now are focused on the many serious problems caused by it.

Due to sweeping changes in California’s criminal justice system, paroled rapists, molesters and other sex offenders statewide are often doing little or no jail time for violating the terms of their release, according to state records and interviews with parole agents, according to Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

The law also prevents habitual criminals convicted of new felonies such as assault, auto theft, drug dealing, identity theft, fraud and commercial burglary from receiving prison sentences. Instread the offenders are get sentences in overcrowded county jails, probation or “treatment” in county-managed rehabilitation programs, according to the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Mentally ill inmates

On Tuesday, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told reporters he wanted more money spent on the Integrated Services for Mentally Ill Parolees program. But his plan would not be considered by the District Court as part of the overcrowding order. The program is run by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which oversees the prison system.

“Fifteen hundred and two individuals have been enrolled in the program,” Steinberg said. “Only 359, or 24 percent, are re-incarcerated or rearrested.”

Steinberg’s plan also calls for more money to be provided for mental health services in the community, including 2,000 crisis treatment beds in a neighborhood setting, KCRA Channel 3 reported.

Steinberg said the funding would come from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); California’s Proposition 63, the 2004 initiative that increased mental health spending; and the state general fund.

Early release or transfers to out-of-state prisons?

It appears that the Brown administration is ignoring the viable option of transferring prisoners to out-of-state prisons. Steinberg’s plan to address the important issue of prisoners with mental illness is an important component to prison overcrowding, and should be considered by the federal court as addressing the overcrowding issue.

Brown’s administration has to submit a report by July 30 on what actions have been undertaken to identify inmates who might be candidates for early release or are unlikely to re-offend.

However, the federal judges stated that if California does not reduce the prison population to the mandated level by the July 30 deadline, “this system will permit defendants to nevertheless comply with the order through the release of low-risk prisoners.”


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  1. Donkey
    Donkey 9 May, 2013, 13:24

    The PIC(Prison Industrial Complex) is the result of LE, Judges, politicians, and attornys using the people of our nation as chattel to exact taxpayer dollars for their scheme.

    In 1988 California had around 20,000 prisoners of all types and now we have balooned closer to 200,000, with many times that on probation or parole. The only difference between the Soviet Gulag and the American Gulag is that we feed our slaves.

    There is no answer to why a nation with less than 5% of the worlds population can have close to 30% of the worlds prisoners other than we have become a police state where our justice system is concerned. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  2. Ted Steele, Navigator
    Ted Steele, Navigator 9 May, 2013, 16:22

    Duncey– Here’s why these guys are in prison: They committed crimes enacted by legislatures and then convicted by judges and juries……now shuffle back to your cubicle little buddy, it’ll be ok…..

    Reply this comment
  3. Hondo
    Hondo 10 May, 2013, 09:54

    I say, transfer the prisoners to Cuba to be with the states legislators.
    How bout the Governor’s mansion. It’s sitting empty right now.
    And how bout housing them at the Sacramento Kings arena. It’s empty for the next several months. They could live there during the season and clean up the arena after the games as part of their parole.
    We could house the homeless in all the empty sports arenas all over the state. We would have to IMPORT homeless to fill the stadiums. They could pitch tents on the turf at the coliseum where USC plays a few times a years. The Coliseum stays empty for 358 days a yearms. Tnv jplays aye stadiums and arenas to stay emptyms. hy not use them.
    Kilgore Trout

    Reply this comment
  4. Hondo
    Hondo 10 May, 2013, 09:58

    I don’t know what happened to those last sentences.
    It should read ‘The Coliseum stays empty for 358 days a year. Taxpayers pay for those stadiums, why not use them’.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ted Steele, Navigator
    Ted Steele, Navigator 10 May, 2013, 10:06

    You mean— RAMJAC juinior executive…lol——

    Reply this comment
  6. Donkey
    Donkey 11 May, 2013, 18:22

    Ted, you are wrong, over 90% were coerced and terrorized into a plea bargain for hurting no one!! Wecome to the American Gulag!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  7. The Ted x
    The Ted x 11 May, 2013, 18:32


    Lol god bless u little buddy, I bet coerced inmates everywhere love u.

    Reply this comment
  8. fish
    fish 12 May, 2013, 06:05

    The Ted x……….?

    Getting in touch with your African nationalist side Tedz? That’s kinda raciss don’t you think?

    Reply this comment
  9. Tired of the Lies
    Tired of the Lies 13 May, 2013, 06:23

    Lies, Lies Lies! Print what you people think and will put fear into the public! Folsom prison is actively sending over 200 low level inmates in July to out of state prisons! The politicians instill fear into the public by telling you they are releasing, due toRealignment, murderers and sex offenderers. Liars! They are releasing them because they have served their MINIMAL sentences! You can kill or rape a person in California and get a lighter sentence than a petty theif! Do your research and look up the statisics people! This entire system is broken and the politicians and the over paid (over 100,00 per year), under educated(GED or HS diplomas only) Captians to CO’s are the ones raping the system and the public is so gulliable and naive that the majority believe the crap they print! Brown says, “There are no more low level inmates in prison, they are all in county jails.” LIAR! There are thousands of inmates, Level 1, zero point inmates locked in state prisons (drug users and petty thieves) all at your cost! At can not believe how we, as citizens of this state, have become so trusting and complacent and just keep accepting the lies of our beyond corrupt government! Our government is in the pockets of one of the worlds largest crime organizations, California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). Check all their wallets and keep listening to their lies or better yet, like i said,”do your research!” Prove me wrong, I dare you! Schwarzneggar was following the direction of the Feds and then abruptly changed his mind after an over the top vacation in Hawaii funded by CCPOA – i smell a pay-off! Wilson’s wife, while he was in office, recieved millions of you dollars from building 14 new prisons – conflict of interest – ABSOLUTELY! and no one says anything! The system is broken not from the bottom up but from the top down! Your criminals are not locked in prisons, they are controlling you running this state!

    Reply this comment
  10. Drbob
    Drbob 10 June, 2013, 16:45

    Really? The crime rate in California has gone down over 60% the last two decades because the criminals are in prison, I’ll tell you what, you offer housing to these poor downtrodden, persecuted, mistreated drugies and I will agree to release all the inmates to your custody

    Reply this comment

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