The cost of new housing for San Quentin State Prison’s growing number of Death Row inmates will exceed estimates by nearly $40 million, and the compound could run out of space soon after it is completed, according to a state auditor’s report released Tuesday. The auditor’s new $395.5 million price tag for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2011, is new bad news for a state facing billions of dollars in budget shortfalls, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat-controlled Legislature are still trying to hammer out a spending plan for the fiscal year that began nearly a month ago.
California’s prison system is already a big-ticket item, representing about 10 percent of roughly $100 billion general fund spending. And with severe inmate overcrowding and claims of inadequate health care for prisoners, a federal receiver appointed by a judge in 2006 has asked the Legislature for an additional $7 billion to get the prison system to run adequately. “This is a giant black hole,” said Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles. The new complex would house a maximum of 1,152 inmates. Since the state Legislature reinstated the death penalty in 1977, there have been 14 inmates executed. The number of condemned inmates has risen steadily to the current number at 674.