California Legislative Analyst’s Office Endorses Closure of Five More State Prisons

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By Rena Abdusalam and Estrella Torres 

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a nonpartisan government agency, has recently released a report recommending shutting down five additional state prisons and advising the Legislature on budgetary topics

The report noted that despite clear financial incentives, Gov. Gavin Newson has yet to commit to such prison reductions.    

The LAO report states, noting the state budget problems, “Accordingly, we recommend that the Legislature direct CDCR to begin planning to reduce capacity by deactivating prisons and report on how to mitigate any resulting challenges”.

By the 2024-25 fiscal year, LAO announced an anticipated surplus of 15,000 prison beds, which is expected to rise to 19,000 by 2028.

LAO declared the excess capacity sets the stage for the shutting down of at least five more state prisons, which saves the state more than $1 billion annually.

California Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan said,  “When we start being told the only way to balance the budget is cutting teachers, child care, and life-saving social services…remember this.”

“This recommendation arrives at a crucial moment for California as it faces a budget crisis significantly worse than previously estimated,” stated the organization Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB).

LAO’s report warned of a potential deficit spiraling of a $73 billion shortfall, despite Newsom’s initial projects that forecasted a $38 billion deficit.    

“Despite the clear financial incentives for prison closures, Gov. Newsom has yet to commit to this path. His focus remains on ‘transforming’ San Quentin into a rehabilitation center, a project accompanied by a hefty $360 million price tag. Last month, Newsom’s own Advisory Council for the San Quentin project recommended cutting the building cost by $120 million,” said the organization.

A deputy director of the criminal justice reform coalition CURB, Brian Kaneda, said, “ The Advisory Council’s principled call for a major reduction in funding for the new $360 million building should be a wake-up call.”

CURB states that since 2020, it has maintained “declining prison populations would allow the closure of at least 10 state prisons” and currently, “three state prisons, along with a leased facility and multiple yards, have been slated for closure.”

The CURB maintains it works to “reduce the number of people in prisons, reduce the number of existing prisons, and redirect funding to build the infrastructure of vulnerable communities…” and it offers “an initial roadmap for shutting down state-owned prisons, starting with ten prisons by 2025.”

LAO’s findings of shutting down at least five additional state prisons reflects an alignment with the organization’s initial projections and goals, according to CURB.

“California’s corrections budget has ballooned to $19 billion, nearly 96 percent of which is funded by state resources. CURB contrasts Gov. Newsom’s hesitation on prison closure with the state of New York’s proactive stance: Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced her intention to close up to five additional state prisons with only 90 days notice,” commented CURB.

“The status quo is no longer sustainable,” said CURB Executive Director Amber-Rose Howard.

Howard added, “California must enshrine a commitment to close at least five more prisons in the 2024-25 final budget due in June, and direct those savings to community-based resources to increase safety, reentry programs and supporting towns where prisons close.”

LAO’s report can be found here.

About The Author

Rena is a junior at Davis Senior High School and is currently exploring her interest in the criminal justice system. After high school, she plans to attend college and continue to pursue a career in law.

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