Inmates to Begin Moving As Early as Next Month
In response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s state of emergency proclamation to immediately ease severe overcrowding in California prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced today it has signed two separate contracts to temporarily provide 2,260 beds for inmates outside of California.
“This is a major step toward reducing the historic levels of overcrowding that is causing major safety issues for prison staff, inmates and the public,” said CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton. “The Governor clearly recognizes the dangers posed by this crisis and has ordered the Department to respond aggressively and appropriately. These contracts will allow California to house inmates out-of-state in a safe and cost-effective manner while creating relief inside our prisons.”
The two contracts signed by CDCR late Thursday are with The GEO Group Inc. of Florida and the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Combined, the contracts will provide beds for up to 2,260 California inmates in four states.
Contracts with both companies are for three years beginning November 2006, with mutual options for two-year extensions. Each inmate transferred will be housed in a secure, private correctional facility at a cost of $63 per day (excluding transportation cost).
The GEO Group Inc. will house up to 1,260 medium-custody level inmates at the New Castle Correctional Facility in New Castle, Indiana. The total cost of The GEO Group Inc. contract is expected to be approximately $28.7 million per year.
The CCA will house up to 1,000 medium-custody level inmates in double cells at four of their facilities, including 440 inmates at Florence Detention Center near Phoenix, Arizona; 240 inmates at the North Fork Correctional Facility and 240 inmates at the Diamondback facility, both in Oklahoma; and 80 inmates at the West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason, Tennessee. The total annual cost of the CCA contract is approximately $22.9 million.
Although both The GEO Group Inc. and CCA operate private institutions, they are required by contract to operate them consistent with all CDCR procedures and California law.
The transfer of the 2,260 inmates, all of whom are expected to volunteer for the move, is scheduled to begin in November and be completed by March 2007. CDCR will continue to seek additional contracts to house up to a total of 5,000 inmates.
CDCR officials have inspected the out-of-state facilities during the past several weeks to ensure that they are consistent with California standards for safety and security, as well as whether the proper medical care and rehabilitative programs will be provided to inmates. All facilities are accredited by the American Correctional Association. In addition, officials this week have begun finalizing agreements with inmates interested in transferring out-of-state.
With a total of more than 172,000 inmates, overcrowding in California prisons is so severe that CDCR has been forced to house more than 17,000 inmates in areas not designed for living space, including gymnasiums and dayrooms. Nearly 1,500 of those inmates are living in triple bunks. Without immediate action, CDCR inmate population projections show that all prison space will be completely exhausted by August 2007. By moving these 2,260 inmates now, that date is expected to be pushed back to June 2008.
Following numerous legislative attempts to address this issue, the Governor proclaimed a state of emergency on Oct. 4, 2006, clearing the way for CDCR to begin contracting with public and/or private correctional facilities to temporarily house California inmates.
This summer, the Governor called a special session of the Legislature to address the issue; however, a package of proposals to relieve overcrowding failed to win support. In January 2006, the Governor introduced proposals for new prison and local jail facilities as part of his Strategic Growth Plan but those were not included in the bond package passed by the Legislature. The Governor also proposed moving non-violent female inmates out of more expensive state lockups and into community correctional facilities as part of his proposed Fiscal Year 2006-07 Budget, but that proposal also failed passage.
The Governor will reintroduce plans to build new prison and jail facilities, reentry facilities, and community correctional facilities when the Legislature reconvenes in December.