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Fact Sheet · March 2015

Corrections Infrastructure Spending in California

Brandon Martin

  • California is investing in short- and long-term prison and jail capacity.
    Between 1984 and 2005, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) opened 21 new prisons to house a growing prison population. At the end of 2005, CDCR operated 33 prisons with a statewide design capacity of more than 80,000 beds. Prison population growth continued to outpace capacity, leading to a 2009 federal court order to reduce overcrowding in state facilities. To meet the court’s mandated population target without building new prisons, the legislature passed reforms designed to shift responsibility for certain offenders from the state to counties. In this new environment, the state’s corrections infrastructure spending is financing construction of county jails, plus medical, mental health, and ancillary facilities for CDCR. California is also paying outside public and private entities to house inmates in facilities in and out of state.
  • The state relies on a network of public and private facilities to augment its corrections capacity.
    CDCR has regularly augmented its capacity by contracting with local agencies and public and private community corrections facilities (CCFs) in California to incarcerate low-level inmates. In 2006, an overcrowding crisis forced the state to start contracting with out-of-state facilities as well. Today, the number of inmates in these facilities, both in and out of state, is nearly 15,000, or 11% of the total prison population. To add capacity and avoid early prisoner release, the state plans to continue the placement of thousands of inmates in contracted non-CDCR facilities through 2016, at least.
  • CDCR plans to use more than $2 billion in bond revenue for medical and mental health care facilities.
    In response to prison inmate lawsuits, CDCR is currently completing several projects to improve medical and mental health care. In July 2013, the department opened a 1,818-bed health care facility in Stockton. CDCR is currently renovating a former youth correctional facility to add an additional 1,133 beds to the Stockton facility. These projects, costing more than $1 billion, add needed intermediate and long-term medical and mental health care beds to the prison system. In addition, a little more than $1 billion is going to renovate and expand medical and mental health clinical space in existing prisons.
  • CDCR will add nearly 2,400 dorm beds by the middle of 2016.
    CDCR will build three new dorm facilities for low-level offenders at existing state prisons, using up to $810 million in bond revenue. Two new dorm facilities totaling nearly 1,600 beds will be added to a state prison in Ione, southeast of Sacramento. The department plans a third dorm facility with 800 beds for a prison in San Diego County.
  • The state is providing counties significant funding to build jails.
    California has made available $2.2 billion in bond revenue to build county jails, which is estimated to add more than 14,000 beds across the state. Recent funding legislation encourages counties to submit plans that include both new housing and facilities to provide medical, educational, and other services to inmates—not just new jail cells.
  • California voters have not been asked to approve recent corrections infrastructure spending.
    California currently relies on lease revenue bonds for all corrections construction funding. These bonds, which only need legislative and gubernatorial approval, generally cost the state 10% to 15% more than voter-approved general obligation bonds. In the past, the state has used both lease revenue and general obligation bonds to fund prison and jail construction.

Sources: Prison inmate populations and construction: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Jail inmate populations and construction: Board of State and Community Corrections. Contracted bed cost and bond financing cost: Legislative Analyst’s Office.


Criminal Justice