The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 14, 2009
NPR looks at state prisons; Hollingsworth puts out prison numbers

Click here to listen to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" story, "Folsom Embodies California's Prison Blues." The Thursday piece runs 12 minutes, 21 seconds.

If you can't link directly to the NPR media player, click here and scroll down to the headline. You can download the Webcast from there or read a transcript.

While we're on the topic of prisons, Murrieta Republican Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth's office put out some data this week that we'll pass along for your inspection and comment, since we know a lot of CDCR folks are blog users.

Click the link below for an intro and link to the data.

These charts and figures came in an e-mail from Hollingsworth's office with this introduction from his spokeswoman, Melanie Reagan:

To keep you informed; the attached data was presented to Capital Press Corps yesterday dispelling myths about Three Strikes, "overcrowding" in our prisons, cost centers and the type of offenders in prison. We hope these facts will assist your coverage of the issue as legislators return to work Monday August 17 to discuss $1.2 billion in cuts to Corrections.

My boss, Senator Dennis Hollingsworth believes we can achieve the cuts without releasing dangerous criminals. His quote:

"Senate Republicans believe we can achieve the $1.2 billion in savings from the prison budget by reducing the exorbitant costs of inmate medical care which is more than $14,000 per inmate. It's an outrage that we've spent billions on complying with court orders that mandate Cadillac prison health care. Further, we need to reduce the bureaucracy and waste in the system, and in times like these we have to cut back on rehabilitation programs taxpayers can't afford. We can save this money and not endanger California's communities by allowing early release of prisoners."

You can click this link to see the 13 pages of information Reagan sent along. Her e-mail included these summaries of each page:

CORRECTIONS PACKET SUMMARY SHEET

PAGE 1 - STATE PRISONS INCARCERATION RATES
California does not over-incarcerate. We are not even close to number one in the nation. California's incarceration rate is only slightly above the national average (we would be in the bottom third of all states if the recent inmate release order from the federal courts were implemented). We have a large prison system because we are the most populous state.

PAGE 2 - THREE STRIKES TABLE
Shows the decrease in criminal activity since the enactment of Three Strikes.

PAGE 3 - THREE STRIKES GRAPH
Alarmist projections of skyrocketing prison populations as a result of three strikes never materialized.

PAGE 4 - PRISON POPULATION AND TOTAL VIOLENT CRIME
Identifies the trends in CA prison populations vs. violent crime. CA locks up more violent criminals today keeping our communities safer.

PAGE 5 - WHERE'S THE GIANT GROWTH RATE IN CALIFORNIA
Many advocates for sentencing reform and early release point to overcrowding in California's prisons as evidence that we over-incarcerate. In reality, California's rate of incarceration has actually declined in recent years, while the rate in 38 other states has increased, placing us only slightly higher than the national average.

PAGE 6 - TOTAL INSTITUTIONAL POPULATION AND TOTAL EMPLOYEES
Shows change in employees has skyrocketed, especially in medical personnel, while the overall population they manage has decreased.

PAGE 7 - CHANGE IN IN-STATE POPULATION: PRISON INMATES/YOUTH AUTHORITY
DJJ as a cautionary tale: what can happen when cost reductions through reduced institutional populations are pursued without a clear corresponding plan to reduce the associated bureaucracy?

PAGE 8 - DJJ STATE EMPLOYEES PER JUVENILE OFFENDER
It now takes 2.8 employees to every ward to manage California's population of juvenile offenders.

PAGE 9 - COST OF DOWNSIZING
Reducing population does not necessarily reduce cost.

PAGE 10 - CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS PER 50,000 INMATES - 4 MOST POPULOUS STATES
Ratio of correctional officers to inmates in California as compared to other large states. California lower in terms of officer staffing levels.

PAGE 11 - PRISON EMPLOYEES IN 4 MOST POPULOUS STATES
While California and Texas have similar levels of correctional officer staffing, California has nearly twice as many non-officer employees as Texas.

PAGE 12 - CA PRISONS COMPARED TO 12 OTHER STATE PRISON SYSTEMS
Of states with more than 30,000 inmates, California has the lowest ratio of correctional officers to inmates. Growth in other categories of correctional staff, such as medical personnel, has been placed upon California by the federal courts at state taxpayers' expense.

PAGE 13 - RECIDIVISM OF NON-VIOLENT PRISONERS
Despite spending more than half a billion dollars per year on rehabilitation programs, California has an alarming recidivism rate. How many innocent children like Lily Burk might still be alive if violent, offenders and career criminals were kept behind bars longer and/or promptly returned to custody upon violating parole, rather than being released prior to completion of their sentences or diverted to treatment as was the case with Charlie Samuel, Burk's alleged killer?

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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