CURB Prison Population Reduction Plan

CURB is a statewide alliance of over 50 organizations working to curb prison spending by reducing the number of people in prison and the number of prisons in California. In response to the Ninth District Federal Judges ruling requiring the Administration to put together a plan to reduce the prison population by 9,000 before December 31, 2013, we have put together a list of recommendations.  We believe the only sustainable solution to reducing overcrowding is to reduce the number of people who are imprisoned in California. 

We understand that some of these proposed measures would double count prisoners. By implementing just a few of these recommendations, the state of California could easily reduce the prison population well below the court mandated 137.5% design capacity, and do so in a permanent, sustainable way that does not utilize out-of-state or in-state transfers or require the construction of any additional beds.  In fact, if the proposals outlined in this document were put in place, California could bring back the nearly 8,500 prisoners currently housed in out-of-state facilities, saving the state approximately $318 million and cancel $810 million in in-fill prison construction projects.

Create Parole Eligibility for the Elderly. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia define processes for releasing older prisoners, the ages covered range from 45 to 70 years old. Ninety percent of California prison healthcare costs come from older prisoners. This population has the lowest recidivism rate of any segment of the prison population.

Potential reduction: As of June 30, 2012 the population of prisoners 55 and older was 7,500; by 2014, that number is projected to be at 8,500.
Anticipated savings:
$98,000-$138,000 per year per prisoner (conservative estimate: $735,000,000)
Specific strategies:
amend Marsy’s Initiative with a 3/4 vote to reset time for age requirement of parole.

Parole Eligible Lifers. There are nearly 10,000 people serving life sentences that are eligible for parole. The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) currently denies parole to more than 80 percent.

Potential reduction: Potential 20% reduction, as parole eligible lifers represent 20% of prison population. 
Anticipated savings:
$98,000-$138,000 per year per prisoner (for those over the age of 55).
Specific strategies:
  Repealing Marsy’s Law to reduce minimum length of time between parole hearings from three years to one year. Expedite parole approval for a selected category of lifers by gubernatorial decree or direction to the BPH.

Expand Good Time Credits for completing treatment, educational, and vocational programs, as well as allow 2nd strikers to retain good-time credits, and provide access to good time credits for people housed in the SHU.

Potential reduction: 22,758
Anticipated savings:
Specific strategies:
Court authorization to waive state laws to achieve the constitutionally required goals; 2/3 vote of the legislature to change provisions for strikers; Violent offense credits passed by the Legislature could be waived by the court.

Expand Medical Parole for people who are permanently medically incapacitated.

Potential reduction: Up to 100 or more people annually.
Anticipated savings:
$7,200,000 annually
Specific strategies:
Legislative amendment to Cal. Penal Code section 3550(a) to expand eligibility for medical parole; deletion of language in Cal. Penal Code section 3550(h).

Remove Barriers to Compassionate Release for individuals who are terminally ill.

Potential reduction: More than 100 people annually.
Anticipated savings: In excess of $120,000 per person released a year
Specific strategies:
Legislative amendment to Cal. Penal Code section 1170(e)(2)(A) expanding compassionate release eligibility to people with terminal illness that would produce death within one year, as opposed to six months.

Implement and Expand the Alternative Custody Program for primary caregivers of children.

Potential reduction: 1,023 (CDCR has approved 243 applications thus far.)
Anticipated savings:
$2.5 million in 2014-2015; $5 million annually in subsequent fiscal years.
Specific strategies: 
Implementation of the ACP as defined under Cal. Penal Code section 1170.05; review and release eligible women whose cases have been categorically denied for reasons not stated in P.C 1170.05(d).

Expedite the Release of Proposition 36 Eligible Third Strikes and Amend the Three Strikes Law. Implement Prop 36 to its full capacity, and the further amendment of the law to expand the scope of the Proposition 36 amendment.

Potential reduction: 3,000
Anticipated savings: $150,000,000
Specific strategies:
Legislative amendment to create a time-line for processing petitions; CDCR implementation of a program to inform three-strike eligible prisoners of the process, as well as contact info for their attorney.

Decriminalize Drug Possession. Reduce penalties for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.  States such as South Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio have reclassified some low-level property and drug felonies to misdemeanors.

Potential reduction: Up to 10,000 people per year

Anticipated savings: $1 billion in five years

Specific strategies: Pass SB 649; Legislative implementation of language outlined in SB 1506 (2011-2012).

Reduce sentences for Youth imprisoned in the adult system.

Potential reduction: Nearly 7,000 currently, increasing each year with new convictions.
Anticipated savings
$3.5 billion (conservative estimate based on minimum amount the state pays to house a prisoner.)

Specific strategies: Pass and implement SB 260; Further Legislative amendment to prohibit District Attorneys from sentencing youth to adult prisons.

Reform Sentencing Laws to Reduce the Length of Prison Sentences; Rescind AB 109 Final Crime Exclusion.  Create retrospective sentencing reform that would stop excessive sentences for convictions related to felony murder, gang enhancements and weapon enhancements.

Potential reduction 1,510
Anticipated savings:
$78 million

More detailed information about proposed reforms is available by contacting CURB at 510-435-1176 or at

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