Saying Californians have “lived in denial” about the crisis in the state’s prisons, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the Los Angeles Times that apathy is to blame for the lack of will in the Capitol to address the corrections system’s overcrowding and rising costs. Schwarzenegger said the prison problem is not “sexy,” because it does not affect people’s lives directly like school or transportation issues. “You talk about prisons, people feel like, ‘OK, go out and get the criminal and you send him somewhere, but wherever that is, I don’t want to look there, I don’t want to know. That’s your problem,’ ” he said. “When the people are not excited about it, how do you make the legislators excited about it?”
The state’s 33 prisons are filled to almost twice their capacity, and a federal judge has threatened to cap the inmate population if the state does not ease the overcrowding. And prison healthcare services are so inadequate that a federal receiver has been appointed to run them. Schwarzenegger has proposed $10.9 billion in new borrowing to expand the prisons, and wants to reexamine the state’s penal code to see if sentences for some crimes are too long. People have brushed [prison problems] “under the rug for years,” but this year Californians have “got to pull it out from under the rug and deal with and just be frank about it,” said the governor.