California leads the rest of the nation in prison spending with a skyrocketing prison budget, according to a report by PolitiFact.
During Gov. Jerry Brown’s 16th and final State of the State Address, he lectured legislators on California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s budget. CDCR’s spending budget has ballooned from around $40 million in 1970-71 to $12 billion this year. Prison spending will make up almost 9 percent of this year’s state budget.
“Corruption within the California state prison system cannot be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman to NBC San Diego regarding the indictment of a 23-year CDCR veteran caught smuggling heroin and meth into prison.
Brown has been following a 2009 order from the U.S. Supreme Court to work to end prison overcrowding. But despite a decrease in the inmate population, there has been no corresponding decrease in CDCR’s staff numbers, and prison staffing costs have climbed.
PolitiFact found that California now leads the nation in per capita inmate cost, but because of the court order to eliminate overcrowding, the state cannot close prisons to alleviate some of the excess spending.
“So long as the order is in effect we cannot close prisons because to do so would reduce our capacity, thereby pushing us back above 137.5 percent” level of prison crowding, state prisons spokesman Jeffrey Callison told PolitiFact.
“Some 70 million Americans have a criminal record – a number equal to Americans with a college degree,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice. NEW YORK TIMES July 27, 2018 “Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance”
In his address, Brown cautioned legislators to consider legislation that supports the criminal justice system as a whole by taking a holistic approach rather than passing more and more crime laws that continue to fill prisons.
“California’s prison population exploded from 1980 through the late 1990s, and prison building metastasized in the state,” said Franklin Zimring, a U.C. Berkeley criminal justice professor. “We went from a little over 24,000 prisoners in California prisons to over 170,000 prisoners in 2010 and 2011.”
Zimring told PolitiFact that California’s tough sentencing schemes, like the Three Strikes Law, had increased the prison population during the 1980s and ’90s. Since the 2009 federal order, California’s prison population has sharply fallen. This year the estimated inmate population is about 119,000, compared to the population peak of 163,000 in 2006.