After declining for six years, California’s prison population is expected to grow by 10,000 inmates in the next five years, complicating Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to abide by a court order to reduce overcrowding, the Los Angeles Times reports. New state population projections show criminals heading to prison at the same rates expected before Brown began to shrink the prison population by keeping low-level, nonviolent felons in county jails after their convictions rather than sending them to state lockups.
The reason for the growing prison population is debated. County prosecutors dispute suggestions they are more frequently pursuing charges that put felons in prison instead of jail. Others cite violent crimes committed by felons or parolees cycling in and out of overcrowded jails since the new prison policy, called realignment, started in October 2011. State data do not show a rise in violent crime. Even with room for 3,700 more beds planned over the next two years and the rollout of new parole programs Brown announced yesterday, California would be increasingly far from the inmate population limit set by the court. The projections were released by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in late December, months later than normal. The report comes as California faces the threat of contempt if it fails to meet an order by three federal judges to ease crowding in its 34 prisons.