Correctional Budget 2012-2013


 Governor Brown has released the proposed 2012-2013 California budget. The full details are here and the summary is here.

The correctional budget comprises 7.8% of the total state budget including special funds. Looking just at general fund numbers, the expenditure on corrections is slightly less than that on higher education. 
However, counting in special funds and bonds, the total expenditure on corrections will be $10,719 million, which is an increase of 11.4% from last year’s budget, and slightly more than the expenditure on higher education.
For those of you wondering how this money will be distributed among various correctional agencies post-realignment, look at the next table:
Most of the money still goes to the state apparatus with only about $100,000 being allocated to the counties. The full breakdown is available here in PDF format.

The report also lists the changes in programs that will ensue from the new budget. The main changes are as follows:

  • The decrease in numbers of state inmates (from 163,152 to 132,167) and parolees (from 108,338 to 56,440) due to the realignment implies a decrease in state incarceration and parole budgets–a reduction of $453.3 million in 2011-12 and $1.1 billion in 2012-13.
  • The outcome of Coleman v. Brown (the mental health side of the Plata case) required an increase of $34.3 million in 2011-12 and $27.3 million in 2012-13 in money allocated for mental health programs.
  • Shifting responsibilities for juvenile offenders from the state level to the county level, which decreased the size of the state apparatus (1174 to 1149 inmates, 850 to 656 parolees) also implies a decrease in budget. 
  • The Estrella Correctional Facility has been cancelled, as there is no need for more beds.
  • Expenditures for constructing the California Health Care Facility (CHCF) ($10.9 million) have been earmarked.
  • Pharmaceutical Costs-The Budget includes $59.9 million for adult inmate pharmaceutical costs, primarily driven by an increase in drug prices.
  • The budget includes an increase of $49 million in Community Corrections Performance Incentive Grants, which county probation departments receive if they demonstrate success in recidivism reduction.
  • Another $8 million General Fund and $46.3 million are reduced to reflect the transfer of resources from the Corrections Standards Authority to the newly established Board of State and Community Corrections.
  • FInally, the budget includes $101 million to restore a prior one-time reduction to rehabilitation services programs.
What’s also interesting is the distribution of funds within the counties. The full budget for state and community corrections can be found here in PDF format.  It seems to still be in somewhat amorphous form, which makes sense given that each county will probably have some freedom in crafting its own budget. 
We will continue to follow up on the realignment and on the expenditures of these funds in the future.

Realignment: How Not to Do It

Our outrage-de-jour for today comes from that paragon of punitivism, Riverside County (also responsible for many of CA’s death sentences). How to handle realignment and an influx of jail inmates? Let them pay for their stay.

I kid you not. The New York Times reports:

With already crowded jails filling quickly and an $80 million shortfall in the budget, Riverside County officials are increasingly desperate to find every source of revenue they can. So last month, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a plan to charge inmates for their stay, reimbursing the county for food, clothing and health care.

Prisoners with no assets will not have to pay, but the county has the ability to garnish wages and place liens on homes under the ordinance, which goes into effect this week.

As the county supervisor who pressed for the ordinance, Jeff Stone, likes to put it: “You do the crime, you will serve the time, and now you will also pay the dime.”

You like the rhyme? Are you a mime? Do you have lyme? Really, if we decide to adopt inhumane, atrocious and self-defeating policies, can we do so based on something empirically loftier than a cute word play?

A slightly less unacceptable explanation comes from neighboring Orange County:

“Sometimes you attack the absurd with the absurd,” said John M. W. Moorlach, an Orange County supervisor. “We’re all messaging to Sacramento that the state has do more than just take our money and download prisoners to us. We’re all finding different ways to scream.”

Mr. Moorlach – you are not writing a Samuel Beckett play. You are dealing with human beings, and the goal, supposedly, is for them not to return to prison. How is placing a lien on their post-jail earnings conducive to that?

Props to Amir Paz-Fuchs for the link.

Would California Be Better with Private Prisons?

The discussions around Josh Page’s book The Toughest Beat, which we reviewed here, have made me think quite a bit about prison privatization. While the private prison industry thrives in other states, and actively lobbies for punitive policies – including the abominable SB 1070 in Arizona – could they possibly do a worse job than the state of California in incarceration?

A recent story on NPR was a reminder that, while state prisons are in such poor shape, allowing private institutions would be a very poor choice. The article is astonishing in that it documents the lengths to which private corporations will go to try and find inmates for prisons built on speculation. But does it at least pay off for the communities that agree to build their economies around the prison industry?

Shapiro says it’s possible a town could reap some small economic benefits from a private prison, but it may not bring the larger economic boost the county is hoping for.

“That’s what the empirical evidence has shown … and there are various theories for why that may be the case,” Shapiro tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan.

The presence of a prison might actually squeeze out other businesses that could bring greater benefits than the prison itself, he says. Also, many of the jobs created by a private prison don’t actually go to people in the community.

The bigger problem, he says, is that state and federal taxpayers — who in the end are paying for these prisons — aren’t getting the most value for their money.

To cite just one example, he says, last year the Arizona auditor general found that it actually might be more expensive to hold Arizona prisoners in private, for-profit facilities than in public ones.

Let’s Build Us Some Jailz!

Prison officials open up $600 million for jail construction to 25 counties

State officials have invited 25 counties to apply for a total of $602 million to construct new jail beds, after narrowing the list in recent days.
The bond funding, available under a 2007 law known as AB900, will be awarded by March and will allow a number of counties to expand their jail capacity. It comes as the state implements “realignment” the governor’s plan to address overcrowding in state prisons by letting thousands of low-level offenders serve their time in local jails instead of state prison. Advocates for prisoners oppose the release of funds.
The counties given the green light to apply for the funds are: Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Fresno, Stanislaus, Tulare, Monterey, Yolo, Sonoma, Placer, Kings, Shasta, Sutter, Madera, Imperial, Napa, Siskiyou and Tuolumne. Additonally, Kern, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Amador and San Benito counties are being asked whether they would like to forgo earlier AB900 funds awarded to them and instead reapply for this round of bond money.
Leslie Heller, an official with the Correction Standards Authority, said the majority of the state’s 58 counties expressed interest in the money, and that the counties invited to apply were chosen solely on the increased number of prisoners they are expected to be housing under realignment.
“We knew with realignment there would be a lot of interest, and we know there is not enough money to go around to all the counties, so we thought, ‘Let’s find out how many are interested, then pick an appropriate number from that to go through the application process, so they don’t expend their resources unnecessarily’,” she said.
She added that there is “absolutely not” enough money for all 26 counties, and that some may not ultimately choose to submit an application.
For more information on AB900 funding, visit this website.

Prison Hunger Strikers’ Numbers Increase

(reposted from

12,000 Prisoners Resume Hunger Strike in California

Outrageous Retaliation by Prison Officials

by Larry Everest and Bay Area Revolution Writers Group

A very just, very significant and courageous battle is rapidly spreading in California’s state prisons—and beyond. On September 26, prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) resumed their hunger strike—in the face of vicious lies and attacks and retaliation by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and other state officials, including Governor Jerry Brown. They had been on a hunger strike from July 1-July 20, demanding an end to the horrifically inhuman conditions they face. On September 29, the CDCR admitted that 4,252 inmates in eight state prisons had missed nine consecutive meals since Monday, September 26, and that state prisons at Calipatria, Centinela, Ironwood, Pelican Bay, San Quentin, and Salinas Valley, as well as the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison at Corcoran, had all reported inmates on hunger strike. (The CDCR won’t count a prisoner as being on hunger strike until he or she has refused nine straight meals.)

These officials figures, it turns out, underestimated the number of prisoner hunger strikers. On October 1, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s website reported, “Numbers released by the federal receiver’s office show that on September 28, nearly 12,000 prisoners were on hunger strike, including California prisoners who are housed in out-of-state prisons in Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.” (The website adds, “Representatives of the hunger strikers have previously stated that this will be a rolling strike, allowing prisoners to come off strike to regain strength. Because of this, numbers will likely fluctuate throughout the duration of the strike.”)

The strike has also reportedly spread to at least one county jail. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that 50 prisoners in the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, east of Los Angeles, are refusing to eat in support of the hunger strike in the prisons. (September 27, 2011)

More than 6,500 prisoners joined the three-week hunger strike in July. Prisoners at Pelican Bay suspended the strike on July 20 after prison officials promised they would meet some of the prisoners’ demands and address the main issues prisoners were raising. Then in September, prisoners wrote a statement saying these promises had not been kept: “We remain in SHU indefinitely, deprived of our basic human rights—based on illegal policies and practices, that amount to torture; torture of us, as well as our family members and loved ones on the outside. CDCR remains in denial, and continues to propagate the lies re: ‘worst-of-the-worst’ 3000 gang generals, etc.—in order to dehumanize/demonize us, so as to maintain the status quo… CDCR’s intent is to break us down, and coerce us into becoming state informants! A violation of international treaty law, period! This is not acceptable!” (Go to for extensive coverage of the July hunger strike.)

These prisoners are now putting their lives on the line again, demanding to be treated as human beings—demanding that the CDCR end the barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment throughout California prisons, particularly in the “Security Housing Units” or SHUs. There, thousands of prisoners are locked in solitary confinement in windowless cells, 7.6 feet by 11.6 feet, for 22 hours or more a day for years, denied human contact. There are 1,111 inmates confined to the SHU at Pelican Bay alone, where the average length of confinement is 6.8 years. More than 500 prisoners have been in the Pelican Bay SHU for more than 10 years; 78 have been in the SHU for more than 20 years!

The prisoners’ demands include an end to group punishment, abolishing the CDCR’s gang status and “debriefing” policies, ending long-term solitary confinement, providing adequate food and expanding constructive programming and privileges. (See “Prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU Announce Hunger Strike, Revolution #237, June 26, 2011, for the prisoners’ five demands.)

Vicious Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers

Prison officials were deeply shaken by the breadth and strength of the July 1-20 hunger strike. This courageous action brought to light the horrific conditions of solitary confinement—amounting to torture—and there was broad support for the prisoners’ just demands.

After prisoners announced the strike would be resumed, prison authorities issued two memos to 165,000 prisoners—warning them against going on strike, claiming they were making changes. Disciplinary warnings were issued to thousands of hunger strikers. Supporters of the strikers report that a number of prisoners lost their jobs as punishment for supporting the strike in July, that some received punitive disciplinary write-ups, and some prisoner negotiators were being singled out and threatened with transfers and subjected to cell searches.

A September 29 press release from the CDCR said it “will not condone organized inmate disturbances” and warned: “Participation in mass hunger strikes and other disturbances will result in CDCR taking the following action: Participation in a mass disturbance is a violation of state law, and any participating inmates will receive disciplinary action in accordance with the California Code of Regulations; and Inmates identified as leading the disturbance will be subject to removal from the general population and be placed in an Administrative Segregation Unit.”

Matthew Cate, Secretary of CDCR, interviewed by Berkeley’s KPFA radio on September 27, threatened prisoners: “If they still want to be on a hunger strike then there will be some consequences to that, because you can’t shut down prison operations with no consequences.” Cate repeatedly described the hunger strike as a “mass disturbance” and compared it to a riot. Attempting to justify why the media are not allowed access to the prisoners on strike—who are risking their lives to demand an end to inhumane conditions—Cates said it was “the same reason that we don’t allow media to have access to Charles Manson.”

On July 29 the CDCR released a revision to its Medical Services Program Policy and Procedures regarding a mass organized hunger strike—including criteria for when the force-feeding of inmates will take place. This could mean the CDCR plans to force-feed prisoners to break the hunger strike. The American Civil Liberties Union has written that “force-feeding contravenes U.S. domestic and international law and is universally considered to be a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” (Press Release: ACLU Calls For End To Inhumane Force-Feeding Of Guantánamo Prisoners, January 9, 2009)

In July, the CDCR repeatedly lied, saying the strike was organized by gangs. Governor Jerry Brown, who never said anything about the hunger strike in July, has now publicly attacked hunger strikers and given full backing to the CDCR’s policies and attacks on the prisoners, saying, “We have individuals who are dedicated to their gang membership who order people to be killed, who order crimes to be committed on the outside… My recommendation is to deal effectively with gangs in prisons.” (California Prison Officials Warn Inmates On Hunger Strike,” CBS San Francisco News, September 30, 2011)

Family members of prisoners participating in the hunger strike are having their visits cancelled. And the Prisoner Hunger Strike Coalition reports that Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, both attorneys who have served on the hunger strike mediation team and have coordinated legal visits for prisoners in the SHU, have both been banned from prisoner visits by the CDCR. This is a further effort to isolate the prisoners and prevent the truth of their situation from being known outside prison walls. (“CDCR Bans Lawyers: TAKE ACTION NOW!” Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, September 30, 2011)

Think about what the draconian actions of the CDCR reveal: Who is defending crimes against humanity? Who is lying and justifying criminal violence against human beings? What does all this show about the utter illegitimacy of the prison system—and brutal nature of mass incarceration in the USA? For prisoners subjected to the most isolating conditions, sitting in their cells and refusing to eat is labeled a “mass disturbance.” Their demands simply to be treated as human beings are met with lies and threats of even more violence against them. This is completely outrageous and intolerable!

Carol Strickman put it like this: “We’re saying they are torturing the prisoners and we want them to stop the torture. The prisoners are so concerned about it that they are going to stop eating. If the response is to increase the torture, then they are just proving who they are and what their values are. This is a human rights issue and they are proving that they don’t see the prisoners as human.”

There is an urgent need for those on the outside to expose and oppose all these attacks on the hunger strikers and their supporters.

Strickman also told Revolution that there are other ramifications if prison officials declare the hunger strike a “mass disturbance”: “They could do lockdowns. That would prevent family visits. That means everybody in the prison can’t have visits. That would be another example of group punishment, and abolishing group punishment is one of the prisoners’ demands. So what they would be doing in response to the prisoners’ demands is to crank up group punishment—the behavior that is being protested. It means people can’t go to the law library, people can’t get medical visits, can’t do classes and programming. In women’s facilities they can’t go do their laundry. You can’t go to canteen. There are a lot of things that flow from a lockdown. That is a serious threat.”

2010 CA Correctional Budget: Rehabilitation at Bottom of Priorities

Source: The Informant. Click to enlarge.

A recent KALW story examines the California correctional budget for 2010. The data does not accurately correspond to the data in CDCR’s “year at a glance” report for 2010. But the picture is not dissimilar: The budget hovers around nine billion dollars, with the largest percentage spent on salaries and a staggering amount on health care and only a fraction on rehabilitative programs.

The CDCR report highlights construction projects funded by AB900 as well as heralds out-of-state incarceration as positive moves to reduce overcrowding. Parole reform is also highlighted, especially decreasing caseloads of parole agents.

But there is a positive piece of news: The total prison population in California has decreased, for the first time in quite a while. This is true for both the female and male populations. Given the trend in recent years, it is hard to tell whether this means a swingback of the incarceration pendulum or a mere anomaly. It is, however, an encouraging piece of news. The decrease is most evident in younger age groups; there is an increase in the percentage of inmates aged 40 and over (which also explains the health care expenses). The trend of decreasing incarceration for drug offenses continues. More than 50% of admissions are still comprised of parole violators; new admissions for felonies account for about a quarter of admissions.

Regionally, Southern California accounts for 65.9% of the inmate population, the San Francisco Bay Area for 11.2%, and the remainder of the state for 22.9%.

The Three Strike population consists of 32,439 2nd Strikers and 8,570 3rd Strikers. A considerable percentage of Strikers are of advanced age.

Fees for Inmate Visits in Arizona?

Here’s a twist on the cost savings angle that left me stunned and speechless this morning: The Arizona Department of Corrections plans on charging $25 for visiting inmates in its correctional institutions.

Yes, I know. I had to do a double-take as well. But here it is, large as life, in the New York Times:

New legislation allows the department to impose a $25 fee on adults who wish to visit inmates at any of the 15 prison complexes that house state prisoners. The one-time “background check fee” for visitors, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has angered prisoner advocacy groups and family members of inmates, who in many cases already shoulder the expense of traveling long distances to the remote areas where many prisons are located.

Beyond the obvious commentary – what a mind-boggling limitation on the budget of already impoverished families and friends of inmates, what an imposition on top of travel to distant locations, what a hindrance to rehabilitation and reentry by way of alienating inmates from their support system – this makes one think of Mona Lynch’s excellent Sunbelt Justice, which we reviewed here a while ago. Arizona has always been big on doing things on the tough-and-cheap. Like Texas, and unlike California, Arizona prisons were originally fashioned like farms and produced revenue based on inmate labor; both Texas and Arizona correctional officials used to mock the cumbersome, expensive rehabilitative apparatus ran in California.

Of course, since those days, the Arizona apparatus has grown large and cumbersome, and as opposed to California, very much enmeshed with Correctional Corporation of America. But the heritage is still there, which explains how the legislature can even come up with such ideas. As disturbing as the state of incarceration is in California, I doubt our legislators would initiate this idea. Mass hysteria, unmitigated punitivism, case-specific sentencing laws following redball crimes, yes. Cynical savings of this ilk, no.  

Activist Humonetarianism: Californians United for a Responsible Budget

More on utilizing the cost argument to fight for the cause of prison reform: Californians United for a Responsible Budget are an Oakland-based organization formed in 2003 to fight overcrowding. Among their activities is fierce opposition to AB 900 and staunch support of SB 9.

I really recommend spending some time on the CURB website. It’s a prime example of marshaling the cost argument as the rhetorical spearhead in the fight against overcrowding.

Moving from Tough and Cheap to Lenient and Cheap: Why Conservative States are Ahead of the Curve

Emily Luhrs from the CJCJ posted a really great think piece today. Taking on the ACLU point on the bipartisanism of criminal justice reform, they point out that conservative states have had a much easier time closing down prisons and decrowding institutions than, say, California.

Texas prisons, for example, went from a projected increase of 17,000 new prison beds in 2007 to below capacity in 2011, paving the way for an unprecedented state prison closure this year. The reforms have not only reduced system-swelling, but have led to the desired goal of increased safety. In the years following the reform efforts, crime rates have continued to drop more than the year before. In fact, research proves longer sentences have no effect on deterring future crime.

. . .

While California often leads the country with progressive reform efforts, it is not leading the way on the issue of incarceration. The same issues that are bloating California’s prison population were identified in previously prison-reliant states like Texas, providing hope that California can seek effective rehabilitative options as the state begins to reduce its prison population. CJCJ has long advocated for smart alternatives to incarceration and if Texas can close prisons, maybe California can too.

Here’s my take on the phenomenon Luhrs highlights: This is all about humanitarianism. Clearly, the dominant, if not only, factor at operation here is the wish to cut costs, and it’s the only factor that has succeeded in reversing the punitive pendulum. Conservative states like Texas and Arizona have a distinct edge over California in doing so, because traditionally, both of these penal systems have operated on the cheap. In fact, as Mona Lynch explains in her terrific book Sunbelt Justice, during the big Rehabilitation Years in California (before the 1970s brought disillusionment with that ideal), Texas and Arizona boasted farm/plantation models that were self-sufficient and did things on the tough and cheap. So, operating on the cheap is not a new consideration in these states. They’ve always done corrections with less. They are simply doing less with less. Here in CA, on the other hand, savings and corrections are not concepts that have traditionally gone hand in hand. We’ve done everything–incarceration, parole, probation, death row–on a mammoth scale and are used to decades of immense expenditure on corrections. That mindset may be even more difficult to change than the punitive mindset. The approach that corrections, by definition, have to be expensive, has always been part of the Californian paradigm, and has always been alien to the Texan and Arizonian paradigms.

So, as Californians, we need to learn how to be two things that we haven’t traditionally excelled at: Being lenient and being thrifty. Ironically, despite Three Strikes and Marsy’s Law and determinate sentencing and all that, we have a better track record with the former than with the latter. But reality is forcing us to acknowledge that and seeking more financial wisdom with corrections, and this will guide us on the right path with regard to punitivism.

Making Sentencing Reform a Priority

Sign this ACLU-California petition at

Save Money and Increase Public Safety

To Governor Brown, Senate President Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Perez:

As you work to solve the long-term budget deficit, please make sentencing reform a top priority. Sentencing reform will help balance the budget, balance our priorities, and balance the scales of justice.

Two simple sentencing reforms would save California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually:

  1. Make possession of small amounts of drugs a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
  2. Make low-level, non-violent property offenses misdemeanors instead of felonies.

These two reforms fit with your realignment plan by keeping state prison for violent and serious offenses. But they provide additional benefitslowering court costs, shortening sentences and saving both state and local dollars that can be used for public safety, drug treatment, social services and public schools and universities.

You have the power to bring back balance to the State of California.