California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary Matthew Cate notes the irony of California prison policy where, due to the budget crisis, many rehabilitative programs have been cut. The irony is that research shows these are the programs necessary to reduce the state’s recidivism rate.
Cate has managed to oversee CDCR operations while:
- A $28 billion budget deficit has given rise to billion dollar cuts in public schools and other social services.
- The U.S. Supreme Court will decide on a population cap for CDCR by this summer.
- A federally appointed receiver is overseeing prison healthcare with a budget over $800 million.
Cate was optimistic, “The receiver had a plan to build seven prison hospitals at a billion dollars apiece. Within the last year, we’ve gotten together. He’s eliminated his seven projects altogether and agreed that we would build facilities that…have a healthcare mission. His seven projects are now one healthcare facility in Stockton.”
AB900 is a $7.4 billion construction project implemented by the state in response to a federal court’s determination that California prisons are unconstitutionally overcrowded.
Ryan Sherman, a spokesperson for the prison guards’ union, which opposed AB900, said the construction authorized by the bill would not solve the state’s prison crisis.
“The state cannot build its way out of the overcrowding prison problem,” he said, “If they build more beds, we will fill up more beds and continue to be overcrowded. Until we figure out how to reform and reorganize the department so it’s efficient and accountable, and take into consideration the limited budget and what’s best for the state, I don’t anticipate anything improving a great deal,” reported Marisa Lagos in the San Francisco Chronicle.
AB900 projects underway or in the planning stages are:
- Medical facilities in Stockton, Vacaville, Corona, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo costing $1.4 billion for about 4,000 prisoners.
- Re-entry facilities in Apple Valley, Stockton, and San Diego costing $442 million for 1,500 prisoners.
- $453 million to add 2,942 jail beds in Calaveras, Madera and San Diego counties, and a new jail for San Bernardino County. [Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation]
California’s FY 2009-10 budget called for $1.2 billion cuts from CDCR.
CDCR subsequently cut educational, vocational, substance abuse programs, and other programs for prisoners and parolees by $250 million.
With parole violations accounting for 47 percent of returns to prison within a three-year period, Cate did not know how many returns were for “technical violations.” [Parolees who are returned to prison for noncompliance to a condition of parole that was not considered a new crime.]
Joan Petersilia, Stanford Law School, and an expert witness in the overcrowding/healthcare trial estimated that annually, 17,000 returns were for technical violations.
Cate responded to reducing the prison population by citing SB1266. He said it will “give us the ability to put female inmates in alternatives to incarceration,” while acknowledging that is a pretty small part of the population.
According to a fall 2010 CDCR report, in a continuing effort to reduce prison overcrowding and increase access to health care and rehabilitation programs, CDCR increased its capacity to temporarily house an additional 2,336 prisoners out of state, bringing the total out-of-state beds available to 10,468.
CDCR has implemented a furlough policy that decreased correctional officer pay by 14 percent. Cate believes that the furlough affected the guards’ morale, but did not interfere with their professionalism.