Calls on Legislature to Protect Public Safety by Funding Realignment
“California has already reduced its prison population significantly over the past several years. Today, we have the lowest crowding levels in California’s prisons since 1995,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “Our goal is to meet the Court’s order by continuing to reduce prison crowding while still holding offenders accountable.
“Our current reduction plan does not include the early release of inmates. But it is absolutely critical that the Legislature understand the seriousness of the Supreme Court’s decision and support a variety of measures that will allow us to lower our inmate population in the safest possible way,” Cate added. “AB 109 is the cornerstone of the solution, and the Legislature must act to protect public safety by funding Realignment.”
On May 23, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Three Judge Court’s determination that medical and mental health care for inmates falls below a constitutional level of care and that the only way to meet the requirements is by reducing prison crowding. Complying with the Court’s decision will require implementing and funding of Realignment, as well as new prison construction, to achieve the 137.5 percent goal set by the Court.
Crowding Reduction Deadlines
Today, the number of inmates in the state’s 33 prisons is approximately 143,000 inmates—a reduction of about 19,000 inmates since plaintiffs filed their motions to convene the Three-Judge Court on November 13, 2006. At that time, California’s prisons were at 202 percent of design capacity. Today, the state’s 33 prisons operate at approximately 179 percent of design capacity. California’s 33 prisons were designed to hold 79,858 inmates.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision, effective May 24, 2011, the inmate population statewide in California’s 33 adult prisons must be no more than:
• 167 percent of design capacity by November 28, 2011,
• 155 percent of design capacity by May 24, 2012,
• 147 percent of design capacity by November 26, 2012,
• 137.5 percent of design capacity by May 24, 2013.
Today’s filing outlines the following measures to reduce prison crowding:
Realignment – The Cornerstone of California’s Solution
On April 4, 2011, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Assembly Bill 109, historic legislation that will enable California to close the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of prison.
Under Realignment, the state will continue to incarcerate offenders who commit serious, violent, or sexual crimes and counties will supervise, rehabilitate and manage low-level offenders using a variety of tools. It is anticipated that realignment will reduce the prison population by tens of thousands of low-level offenders over the next three years.
As Governor Brown said in his AB 109 signing message, Realignment cannot and will not be implemented without necessary funding. The Governor also signed Assembly Bill 111, which gives counties additional flexibility to access funding to increase local jail capacity for the purpose of implementing Realignment.
Realignment is supported by law enforcement including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, California Peace Officers’ Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, Chief Probation Officers of California, Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Union and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
Legislative reforms already implemented include the passage of Senate Bill (SB) x3 18, which, in part, established the California Community Corrections Performance Incentives Act, created credit-earning enhancements for inmates who complete certain rehabilitation programs, and reformed parole supervision by creating a Non-Revocable Parole category for low-level, lower-risk offenders.
CDCR also transferred about 10,000 inmates to out-of-state facilities. This program would continue as operationally needed. Since 2009, the department has also discharged more than 27,000 parolees who were deported to foreign countries by the federal government.
CDCR has made efforts to increase prison capacity through Assembly Bill 900, passed in a bipartisan vote of the Legislature and signed into law on May 3, 2007. The department has increased design capacity by adding beds as well as treatment space.
Under AB 900, the state is currently planning, designing or constructing:
• A new 1.2 million-square-foot health-care facility in Stockton.
• New high-security prison facilities to be built on existing prison sites.
• New mental health facilities at the California Medical Facility and the California Institution for Women.
• Conversions of former juvenile facilities to adult facilities.
• New re-entry facilities.
In addition to projects that will add design capacity, under AB 900, the state has completed and is planning upgrades that add health care treatment and clinical space.
The full report filed with the Three-Judge Court, as well as other information regarding population reduction measures, is available on CDCR’s web site at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/3_judge_panel_decision.html
Contact: Oscar Hidalgo