California’s Legislative Analyst Office Questions CDCR Blueprint

For Immediate Release–May 16, 2012

Press Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros

Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Ph. 510 444 0484

Oakland—California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) concluded that the Department of Corrections “has not justified the need for several costly prison construction projects that would add $76 million in annual debt-service costs to the General Fund” in a report on the CDCR’s “Future of California Corrections” plan. The LAO determined that the state “should consider less costly alternatives to the CDCR blueprint.” The LAO’s report comes amidst much analysis of California’s recently announced $15.7 billion budget shortfall and Gov. Brown’s plans to make $8 billion in cuts.  Advocates and activists across the state continue to point to the relationship between increases in prison and jail spending and cuts to vital educational, employment, health, and social services and programs.  While this month’s budget revise proposes slashing authorization to borrow over $4.1 billion from AB900 prison construction funds, it still allocates $800 million for new prison cells and an additional $500 million to counties to expand jail capacity, adding to the $1.2 billion already awarded to counties earlier this year.

Along with noting unusually high costs for prison construction projects already marked as questionable, the LAO also notes the CDCR’s “blueprint depends on the uncertain court approval of its request to raise the population cap to 145 percent of design capacity.”  The heightening of the overcrowding ceiling is nearly 10% higher than what was mandated by the US Supreme Court in last year’s landmark condemnation of the California prison system.

The LAO recommends that the Legislature closes California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, rejects construction plans at DeWitt juvenile facility along with infill projects at three other locations, and significantly reduces the state’s reliance on out-of-state contract beds. The LAO points out that CDCR’s plan for “infill beds” to house Enhanced Outpatients (EOP) ignores the fact that “According to the department’s most recent projections, there will be a surplus of over 100 EOP beds in 2016-17 without the construction.”

“While we appreciate the LAO’s calls to caution around the CDCR’s plan—especially when it comes to construction—we join communities all over the state who are demanding more thorough changes to the California prison system that would not only save the state billions of dollars, but also reunite thousands of people needlessly trapped in jails and prisons with their loved ones,” says Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget.  “We want to push California’s decision makers to take up measures and reforms that would cancel construction funding, implement release programs for sick and elderly prisoners, and change draconian sentencing laws that got us into this mess.  These changes are not only doable and sustainable, but are in line with the desires of the majority of residents in this state.”

Today’s LAO report comes during demonstrations across the state against the grave impacts of budget cuts and as Gov. Brown reversed his promise to close the notorious Division of Juvenile Justice.

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