The deadlock in the California legislature over prison cuts is costing taxpayers millions per day as lawmakers debate changing tough-on-crime policies that have sent prison populations and costs soaring, the Sacramento Bee reports. Democrats, who control the legislature, are divided over how far to go in easing punishment or supervision of low-level offenders, while focusing resources on dangerous criminals. The fiscal crunch grows by $3.3 million per day because the state budget anticipated that a deal on how to cut $1.2 billion from prisons would be struck in July, not mired for months.
“It’s not just about a budget,” said Sen. Gloria Romero. “It’s about systemic reform of a broken sentencing system.” As California faced a federal court order to reduce its overcrowded inmate population by 40,000 within two years, the Assembly rejected a budget-cutting effort approved by the Senate, instead adopting a pared-down version. The houses disagree in these areas: allowing some low-level offenders to leave prison early under house arrest; creating a sentencing commission; and redefining receiving stolen property and two other “wobbler” crimes as misdemeanors. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the Senate version, which would reduce the inmate population by 27,300 this year, compared with a lesser Assembly total of 17,000.