California Budget Deficit Forces Difficult Cuts – Lawmakers, CURB Claim Prison Should Be Easy Choice 

By Shriya Kali Chittapuram

SACRAMENTO, CA – In a recent opinion article in the LA Times, California is facing a pressing need for budget cuts—but according to Phil Ting, a Democratic Assemblymember from San Francisco and author of AB 2178, while no one wants to see essential services suffer, there’s a clear area where savings can be made: prisons.

“Nobody wants less funding for their child’s school, road maintenance, environmental progress or other essential services,” stated Ting, who said the state’s prison population has decreased significantly over the years due to reforms aimed at reducing incarceration rates.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there has been a 25 percent decrease in the prison population since 2019.

“Currently, there are roughly 93,000 inmates in California prisons, leaving approximately 15,000 empty beds. This surplus is expected to grow to 19,000 in the next four years. With billions of dollars being spent on maintaining these empty beds, it’s clear that prison consolidation and closures could offer substantial savings,” Ting wrote in the LA Times.

“Gov. Gavin Newsom has already closed two prisons and eight yards, but there’s still excess capacity equivalent to four or five more empty prisons,” added Ting.

According to The Legislative Analyst’s Office, it’s estimated that California could save $1 billion annually in operating expenses and up to an additional $2 billion in capital expenses by closing five prisons.

“This money could be redirected to support crucial public safety measures, education, housing, and workforce development,” argues Ting in the LA Times Op-Ed, joining Amber-Rose Howard from California United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) in insisting that prioritizing funding for these areas over maintaining surplus prison capacity is essential for the well-being of Californians.

Assembly Bill 2178, proposed by Ting, aims to reduce prison capacity gradually and practically to 2,500 beds, allowing for operational flexibility while aligning with Gov. Newsom’s vision of a fiscally prudent California.

The bill also emphasizes the importance of rehabilitation and reducing recidivism, which could be better supported with redirected funds from prison spending.

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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