California to Eliminate Private Prison Payments

Tuesday, 24 Apr 2012 10:51 AM

By Robert Engler

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California prison officials plan to reduce spending by more than $30 billion over the next 10 years through a combination of measures, which includes eliminating payments to private jail facilities in other states that now house California inmates.
 
By bringing inmates held elsewhere back into the state-run system, California is expected to save an estimated $318 million a year now paid to private jails, according to the Los Angeles Times.
 
But an inmate advocacy group that sued the state to reduce prison overcrowding says it will oppose a planned request to raise the federal court-imposed limit by 6,000 prisoners.
 
Rebekah Evenson, an attorney at the Prison Law Office, told the Times the request if granted would leave the state prison population about 40 percent over capacity.
 
“It’s still quite crowded. The court felt [110,000 inmates] was the absolute maximum the prisons could have and still provide constitutional care,” Evenson said, noting the state’s 33 prisons have capacity for 80,000.
 
The plan, which must be approved by the federal court and the legislature, would reduce prison spending in 2015 to 7.5 percent of California’s general-fund budget from a proposed 9.4 percent in the next fiscal year. The plan also calls for a continued reduction in the prison population by housing low-level offenders in local jails and taking other steps to reduce overcrowding.
 
“California is finally getting its prison costs under control and taking the necessary steps to meet federal court mandates,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in statement Monday.
 
The state now spends about $9 billion annually on prisons. If the plan is fully implemented, it will save about $30 billion over 10 years, the Times reported.
 
Other major parts of the plan would cancel $3.3 billion in new construction and close one facility to save $160 million annually.

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