Federal judicial orders are mostly to blame for a $3 billion drop in the budget savings that California prison officials promised four years ago, corrections officials tell the Associated Press. They had projected billions of dollars in reduced prison spending starting in 2012 through a long-term plan to trim the inmate population dramatically in response to federal court orders and recession-driven budget pressures. Instead, there is a $3 billion annual difference between the promised savings and the $10.5 billion corrections department budget Gov. Jerry Brown proposed earlier this month, in part because the state chose to boost the number of prison beds available.
Federal judges required the state to reduce the headcount in the state’s 34 main adult prisons more than officials wished, says the revised long-term plan Brown’s administration released this week at the insistence of state lawmakers. That led to more expensive private prison beds in California and other states and ended plans to close a dilapidated state lockup as the state scrambled to maintain enough beds. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now houses about 35,000 fewer inmates than it did at its peak in 2006, leading liberal and conservative advocacy groups and a state lawmaker to question why the savings never materialized. “The money’s going up, and the population’s going down,” said Sen. Loni Hancock, who heads the Senate Public Safety Committee and the budget committee that oversees corrections spending. “When do you start seeing the long-term savings?”