Magazine article Corrections Forum

Swelling Prison Population Numbers Cause Budgetary Woes

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Swelling Prison Population Numbers Cause Budgetary Woes

Article excerpt

Robert Sillen, the man a judge put in charge of health care in California prisons, has been trying to fix things, but solutions come at a price. Health care spending in California's state prisons has doubled in the last two years. That is just one reason California's prison spending has far outpaced the swelling number of inmates, contributing to the state's projected $14-billion budget gap, which would be the worst since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's election in 2003.

The prison population has grown by 8% since 2003, to more than 173,000. But the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's budget has exploded, increasing 79% to $8.5 billion, and is expected to top $10 billion next year.

Prison spending now is greater than that for any other major program except public schools and health care for the poor. The nonpartisan legislative analyst's office projects 6% annual increases in prison spending for the next five years as a new prison and dozens of building additions are constructed and opened.

"We know there's a lot coming down the pike," says Daniel Carson, who oversees criminal justice spending for the legislative analyst.

Several causes of the department's fiscal metastasis are the same that plague many parts of California's $145-billion state budget: spending set at the ballot box and in the courts; bureaucratic waste; and more than a decade of neglect in construction, repairs and other improvements. …

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