Tasty meals! A room with a view! Ping-Pong! Cable TV! California prison officials are using those enticements to lure inmates to transfer out-of-state, says the Los Angeles Times. Wardens are screening a film extolling the virtues of out-of-state prisons and reminding convicts of the violent, overcrowded, racially charged conditions in California. “You get 79 channels here – ESPN!” one tattooed California felon, now housed in Tennessee, says in the movie. “They talk to us like humans,” says another, “not like animals.”
The Times says the campaign reflects the desperation corrections officials face as they grapple with a ballooning prison population and no easy fix. Leaders say they will run out of room for new inmates by summer, and a federal judge has ordered the overcrowding eased by June. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a sweeping $11.9-billion prison building and reform plan. Its prospects are uncertain in the Legislature, and creating bed space – whether through the construction of new cells or policy changes that slow the incoming tide of convicts – cannot be accomplished overnight. In an initial survey, more than 19,000 felons said they might like a change of scenery. Now officials say they have only 600 volunteers on their list, including 365 who already have been shipped to Arizona and Tennessee.