Accommodating prison population growth
The massive population and personnel cost have been contributing factors to the department’s ten-fold budgetary increase over the same period (Table 8a).
The construction of prison facilities to accommodate new inmates failed to keep pace with prison population growth, resulting in severe overcrowding, and unconstitutional living conditions among inmates.
California’s prison population growth has been attributed to the following factors: The impact of these changes and increased incarceration has correlated with lower crime rates (Figure 8b), but experts warn that this does not imply that greater incarceration has directly caused lower crime rates.
Some have even argued that despite lower levels of reported crime, crime may have actually increased in some communities.
In reaction to such high incarceration rates, voters passed Proposition 36 in 2000.
It allowed for non-violent drug offenders (including Three Strikes qualifiers with a non-violent histories) to receive more lenient sentences.
Furthermore, prison guards’ compensation increases following high-pressure collective bargaining stressed the budget.
In an attempt to decrease overcrowding, curtail costs, and decrease recidivism, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act (also known as Realignment).
Through the program, the state has transferred billion to counties to help them accommodate the additional prisoners as they see fit.
Proposed primarily to reduce costs, Prop 36 is estimated to have saved taxpayers several hundred million dollars since its enactment.