Facing packed prisons and projections that overcrowding will worsen, California Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez has introduced legislation that could lead to a new prison construction boom, says the San Francisco Chronicle. The prison guards union is suggesting the early release of some inmates. The state has just concluded 20 years of prison construction, and spending on corrections has soared by 65 percent during the past three years. While other states have revamped sentencing and parole policies to reduce or stabilize prison populations and cut costs, California has not.
Voters defeated a measure in 2004 that would have limited the use of the “three strikes” law, which automatically sentences repeat violators to long prison terms. An initiative on the November ballot supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will extend sentences for many sex offenders. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which has considerable clout in the legislature, has produced a plan to address overcrowding. Itl includes building two new prisons at an accelerated pace, exploring alternative housing options such as tents, and allowing some inmates charged with nonviolent crimes to get out of prison 30 days early.