Robert Sillen, the man a judge put in charge of health care in California prisons, has been trying to fix things, but solutions come at a price: Health care spending in state prisons has doubled in the last two years. That, says the Los Angeles Times, is just one reason California’s prison spending has far outpaced the swelling number of inmates, contributing to the state’s projected $14-billion budget gap, which would be the worst since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election in 2003.
The prison population has grown by 8% since 2003, to more than 173,000. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s budget has exploded, increasing 79 percent to $8.5 billion, and is expected to top $10 billion next year. Prison spending now is greater than that for any other major program except public schools and health care for the poor. The nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office projects 6 percent annual increases in prison spending for the next five years. Another initiative is being readied for the ballot next year by Sharon and George Runner, two Republican legislators, she in the Assembly and he in the Senate. The proposed initiative would require the state to spend nearly $1 billion to combat gang crimes and lengthen some prison sentences.