Recognizing that California counties were fast running out of space to lock up offenders, state lawmakers authorized $1.2 billion for jail construction in 2007, says the Sacramento Bee. Since then, demand for county jail space has spiked due to a 2011 California law that redirected lower-level offenders to counties rather than state prisons. But six years after the state approved the funding for jails, not a single county has finished construction – and only five have started building new cells.
State and county budget woes during the recession are partly to blame. The state initially struggled to sell bonds, while counties could not scrape together enough matching construction funds or devote more money for workers to operate expanded jails. County officials also cited a maze of bureaucratic state hurdles. County sheriffs say they need more jail beds after having released inmates 153,000 times statewide in 2012 because they didn’t have enough space, a 28 percent increase over the year before, state figures show.