Legislative Leaders, Governor Agree on Prison Population Reduction Proposal

September 09, 2013

(Sacramento) – Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway have reached agreement on a proposal for a more durable and comprehensive approach to resolve the current prison overcrowding crisis. In order to implement the plan, the Governor and four legislative leaders are jointly requesting the federal court Three Judge Panel to grant modification of the current December 31 deadline to reach 137.5 percent capacity in state prisons.

The agreement provides dedicated funding to create a Recidivism Reduction Fund provided the court agrees to modify the deadline. The proposal would maintain the avoidance of any early releases of inmates, and would provide only as much funding as required to expand prison capacity in the event the extension is not granted.

“We stand together in urging the court to grant an extension of the deadline to reduce our prison population through reducing the rate of reoffenders. If the court grants this extension, we will have shifted the debate from one of prison expansion only, to durable and sustainable solutions. If it does not, then we are prepared to keep the state in compliance with the court’s order while protecting public safety,” said Steinberg.

“The proposal is a long term solution to California’s prison overcrowding crisis by addressing the underlying problem of recidivism. With funding dedicated to strengthen treatment and rehabilitation programs, California will return fewer inmates to prison once they’re released and put more at-risk juveniles and young adults on a path away from crime. Under this plan, we meet the goal of no early releases. Now it’s up to the court. The more time California is given to forge this remedy, the more investment we can make to succeed. “

Under the agreement, SB 105 and AB 84 will be amended to reflect the following:

  • Creates a Recidivism Reduction Fund in the state treasury to be available for appropriation by the legislature for activities aimed at reducing the state’s prison population, including, but not limited to, reducing recidivism. Funds available in the Recidivism Reduction Fund may be transferred to the Community Corrections Performance Incentive Fund and other recidivism strategies.

  • If the state is given any extension of time by the Three Judge Panel to meet the population cap, the first $75 million of savings from the $315 million authorized for additional capacity would be deposited into the Recidivism Reduction Fund. Any additional savings above the $75 million would be divided with 50% reverting to the General Fund and 50% transferred to the Recidivism Reduction Fund.

  • Changes the funding formula for SB 678 (2009), which was affected by realignment in a way that dramatically reduced how the savings to probation were calculated. SB 678 provides performance-based grants to counties who have established programs that successfully reduce the number of felony probationers who return to prisons. With this change, probation’s continued success with the felony probation offender population will result in approximately $100 million more for evidence-based probation practices under the new formula. 

  • Authorizes $315 million for the state to contract for additional capacity to achieve the 137.5% court ordered December 31, 2013 population cap and avoid any early release in the event the court declines to modify its existing order.

This agreement sets up a practical way for the state to effectively shift from a capacity-only solution to prison overcrowding in the short term to a more comprehensive approach designed to produce a more sustainable remedy.