California, under pressure to reduce the number of inmates in its crowded prisons, has steadily increased the number of convicts it sends to private institutions outside the state since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger began the program in 2006. The San Francisco Chronicle says the latest deal will ship another 5,800 inmates to private prisons across state lines, bringing the total to more than 15,000. The transfers will begin in May under a contract that runs through June 2013–nearly halfway through the term of Gov.-elect Jerry Brown.
California has a prison population of about 164,000, but its corrections facilities are equipped to house around 100,000. Critics say moving prisoners to out-of-state facilities does little to relieve the underlying problems that have caused crowded conditions, and they questioned the timing of the new, no-bid contracts with two private companies. One of the companies houses nearly 10,000 California prisoners. “This is the governor doing what he wants to in the last minutes of his administration,” said state Sen. Mark Leno. “It is a way he can, on his watch, knock another 5,000 from the official numbers.” The prisons remain woefully crowded: There are 8,200 inmates in “nontraditional” beds, such as the gymnasium at San Quentin State Prison.