California’s prison system hired 1,000 guards at a cost of as much as $100 million and without permission from the Legislature during the last three years, state officials said yesterday, reports the Contra Costa Times. “It makes the budget process look really very bogus,” state Sen. Jackie Speier said after hearing testimony from the Arnold Schwarzenegger administration about unauthorized workers whose salaries have contributed to the skyrocketing costs in the nation’s largest prison system.
The nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office said that the Department of Corrections’ budget in recent years grew at a faster rate than the inmate population. Over the past decade, the budget has doubled, to about $6 billion, while the number of inmates jumped about 20 percent, to roughly 160,000.
The Department of Corrections for years has been forced to seek hundreds of millions in extra funds because of cost overruns. “It’s a meaningless budget,” Speier said after the nearly four-hour hearing. “We really don’t know how these positions were filled yet.”
Rick Rimmer, acting director of corrections, said the mystery of the unauthorized correctional officers was discovered within the past couple of months. “The practice has stopped,” he said.
As state budget woes have worsened, lawmakers increasingly have examined rising costs of incarcerating inmates in 32 facilities across the state. Yesterday’s hearing was one of the most exhaustive public looks at the spending.