Phase Two of Inmate Transfer Plan In Keeping with Governor’s Executive Order
Sacramento – With California’s inmate population at crisis levels, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced that it would begin involuntary transfers of inmates to prisons in other states in an expanded effort to temporarily ease severe prison overcrowding.
The effort marks the second phase of an inmate transfer program that began in November, 2006 with the transfer of volunteer inmates. CDCR was extremely active educating inmates about the transfers and conditions at the out-of-state facilities.
“We will continue to seek volunteer inmates who are willing to serve their sentences in other states,” said CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton. “But we also will begin to move inmates involuntarily so that they are no longer sleeping in gymnasiums, dayrooms and other inappropriate areas of the prisons and to delay the possibility of running out of beds for new inmates, which would create a public safety problem in our communities.”
The involuntary transfers are intended to create space for new inmates in California prisons, which are jammed with a historically high number of inmates. Without the transfers, new inmates would be housed in local jails, forcing local law enforcement to increase the number of lower level offenders they must release prematurely.
“We are severely overcrowded and the need for more space is absolutely critical,” said Tilton. “These transfers allow us to improve the safety of inmates and correctional officers while avoiding the potential of being unable to accept new inmates. This decision is being made to protect public safety.”
California’s prison population stands at 174,000 inmates, the highest in its history. Approximately 16,000 inmates are currently in triple bunks in gymnasiums and day rooms, common areas that were not intended for housing.
Inmates identified for involuntary transfers will meet criteria established in Governor Schwarzenegger’s emergency proclamation on overcrowding adopted on Oct. 4, 2006. Under that order, the first priority for involuntary transfers is inmates who face the prospect of deportation by the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency after their release from prison.
Prior to moving inmates with special needs, involuntary transfers will be coordinated with the federal court-appointed Receiver for health care and the plaintiffs and court-appointed Special Master in a class action lawsuit (Coleman v Schwarzenegger) regarding mental health..
The involuntary transfers are expected to begin in approximately 60 to 90 days. Potentially, up to 5,000 inmates could be moved involuntarily to privately operated correctional facilities in Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma, depending on CDCR’s need for available beds.
CDCR currently maintains contracts with The GEO Group Inc. of Florida and the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.
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 with other inmates from California.
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.
In November, 80 inmates voluntarily transferred to the West Tennessee Detention Facility operated by CCA. Since then, approximately 300 additional volunteers have moved to the Florence Detention Center in Arizona.
Secretary Tilton emphasized that the transfers are a temporary solution to avoid an immediate crisis, while the Legislature considers reforms proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger for long term solutions to prison overcrowding.
Those proposals, introduced in December, offer a comprehensive approach to solving the prison overcrowding crisis. It includes $4.4 billion in bonds to help local governments expand jail capacity to house low level offenders, as well as the construction of community-based custody facilities that would be uniquely equipped to provide rehabilitation programs to help inmates return successfully to their communities.
For more information on CDCR and the inmate overcrowding crisis, visit the CDCR web site at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov./