In 2007, California authorized $7.4 billion in bonds to expand prisons and local jails to add 53,000 new beds. Nearly four years later, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office, the state has not completed a single project authorized by that bill and has begun planning or construction for only about 8,400 beds, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Most of the projects in the pipeline – which include adding beds to existing county jails and building health care and re-entry facilities – have been approved in the past few months.
Some critics question whether new Gov. Jerry Brown should pursue all of the projects approved under the measure. Sen. Mark Leno believes the state should undertake a “serious review” of the plans, noting that lawmakers have instituted other reforms to deal with crowding since 2007 – including medical parole for severely incapacitated inmates – and that the state’s crime rate has declined. A spokesman for the powerful prison guards’ union said, “The state cannot build its way out of the overcrowding prison problem. If they build more beds, we will fill up more beds and continue to be overcrowded. Until we figure out how to reform and reorganize the department so it’s efficient and accountable, and take into consideration the limited budget and what’s best for the state, I don’t anticipate anything improving a great deal.”