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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why California won't build prisons to ease inmate overcrowding

Modesto BeeIn his final effort to forestall a federal court order requiring the state to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates, Gov. Jerry Brown last week counted the ways prison conditions have improved since the court first winced at overcrowding years ago.

Since 2008, Brown's administration said in a U.S. Supreme Court filing, California has diverted thousands of offenders from the prison system to counties and has spent more than $1 billion on new employees and facilities to improve mental health and medical care for inmates.

Despite pressure to relieve overcrowding, however, there is one thing the state has not done: build more prisons.

Following a construction binge in which the state opened about 20 prisons in the 1980s and 1990s, California has built only one traditional prison since 1997, in Delano in 2005.

The lack of construction reflects a dearth of public support for prison spending, as well as recession-era budget constraints.

"Look, everybody wants to send people to prison. Nobody wants to pay for it," Brown said in January, when he declared at a news conference that California had solved its prison crowding problem. continue reading...

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