For the first time in decades, California has neither any prisons under construction nor plans to build more, the Christian Science Monitor says. With the recent opening of the maximum-security Kern Valley State Prison about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the state has capped a 20-year building frenzy. Since 1984, the state built 33 prisons; California had constructed only 12 in the previous 132 years.
The decision to build no more prisons is driven largely by dwindling financial resources. Across the nation, state expenditures for prisons over 15 years have grown by more than 1,000 percent. At this rate, California – like many states – can no longer afford new facilities. The change symbolizes a departure from the tough-on-crime mind-set that has dominated the politics of prisons. From Massachusetts to Michigan, states are placing greater emphasis on rehabilitation – establishing reentry programs to help prisoners transition back to society, shortening sentences, and diverting abuse offenders to treatment instead of jail. On July 1, the California corrections department will be renamed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Kern Valley facility, which opened last week to its first dozen prisoners and will eventually house 5,000 men, is being touted as California’s first maximum-security facility with full-scale rehabilitative programming that could include up to eight hours a day of jobs training or abuse treatment.