Prison Capacity Management Bill with Broad Support Advances in California Legislature 

Photo by Tom Blackout on Unsplash

By Shriya Kali Chittapuram

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) has shepherded safe passage so far in the committee process here of AB 2178, making several strides with bills related to Prison Capacity Management, according to a statement.

“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) budget has escalated from about $10 billion to about $15 billion in recent years, while the prison population has dropped by about 50 percent,” stated Ting last week in the statement.

According to AB 2178, the measure aims to address the issue of excess empty beds in state prisons by setting annual thresholds for the number of empty beds allowed.

The bill was authored by Ting, and sponsored by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) and more than 50 organizations, ensuring more efficient use of taxpayer money while responding to ongoing declines in the prison population.

During the hearing, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), known for rarely intervening early in the legislative process, highlighted the significance of AB 2178, Ting’s office said.

According to LAO, the estimated closing of five prisons could lead to approximately $1 billion in annual savings, with potential further savings of up to $2 billion in capital costs over the next 10 years through additional capacity reductions.

LAO reported that by 2028, California could have nearly 19,000 empty prison beds, roughly one-fifth of the state’s total prison capacity.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the law enforcement special interest group representing prison guards, was the sole organization listed in opposition to AB 2178. According to CCPO, the association had successfully negotiated $1 billion in raises and bonuses for its members last year.

CDCR has raised concerns about potential overcrowding resulting from prison closures according to the statement, arguing the “California Model,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initiative, inspired by Nordic-style incarceration, requires the maintenance of a larger buffer of empty beds and additional space for rehabilitation purposes.

Advocates for prison closure such as CURB have warned lawmakers for months that CDCR might utilize the California Model framework during this legislative cycle to avoid further closures and uphold the current state of affairs under the guise of rehabilitation.

“CDCR operates more than 42 million square feet of buildings and over 23,000 acres of land,” countered CURB Statewide Coordinator Dax Proctor.

Proctor added, “We are confident that the department can both pursue culture change and increased programming without such an extensive surplus of empty beds. Rehabilitation, public safety, and prison closure can all co-exist.”

Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), speaking at the hearing, supported the bill, stating, “AB 2178 is something I absolutely will listen to…California faces an alarming deficit, somewhere between $38-$73 billion.”

“This bill is a common sense fiscal solution to a very challenging budget situation,” concluded Ting. The bill next advances to the Appropriations Committee.

About The Author

Shriya, known as Kali, Chittapuram is in her final year at UC Riverside majoring in Psychology with a minor in Law & Society. Kali has had a huge passion for law since high school, and aspires to attend law school in the near future to study Film & Entertainment law. In her free time, Kali loves to write, draw, and even act in films and theater.

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