California Assembly Approves Ting’s Prison Reduction Legislation; Could Save CA ‘Billions’

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By Helen Shamamyan

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Assemblymember Phil Ting’s AB 2178—calling for consolidating and closing state prisons that could save “billions of dollars in prison costs” —was approved by the California Assembly last week, according to Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB.)

CURB writes that there are currently 15,000 state prison beds unfilled, which require staff and money to maintain; this discrepancy is due to the declining prison population over the past decade.

“The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) estimated in a recent report that our state could save $1 billion annually by closing five prisons and up to an additional $2 billion in capital cost savings,” said CURB.

Ting, according to CURB, said, “The passage of my legislation comes at a crucial time, as California grapples with severe budget constraints. It’s fiscally irresponsible to maintain such high levels of unused prison beds at taxpayer expense when schools, social safety net programs, transportation and other priorities are online.”

AB 2178 suggests reducing the threshold for empty beds to 2,500, taking account the need to increase the threshold in urgent cases to account for more individuals if needed. If these cases were to occur, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary can ask the Legislature to make these changes to the “empty bed buffer,” said CURB.

Also, despite a 40 percent decrease in the number of incarcerated people, the CDCR’s budget was increased from $10 billion a year to about $15 billion in the past few years, revealing a huge miscalculation in CA state budget spending, charged CURB.

CURB said the aim of Ting’s legislation is to consolidate and close some of prison facilities which would help optimize state budgeting and improve the operations of the corrections department, noting similar actions in the state of New York didn’t lead to an increased risk to public safety.

Brian Kaneda, Deputy Director of CURB, asserted, “AB 2178 is a sensible step toward reducing surplus capacity at CDCR. That money should be reallocated to vital social programs that have faced devastating cuts.”

Ting’s measure will now move to the Senate for approval.

About The Author

I am a student from Southern California that's graduating this year from UC Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I worked as a court watch/ law clerk for a PEO in worker's comp cases of California warehouses. I reported the hearing summaries and outcomes to the employer and maintained correspondence with the attornies prior to and after each hearing on behalf of my boss. I have nearly completed by Bachelors in English, and I am planning on taking a break year before delving into law school to study civil rights defense.

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