Realignment Impacts Space Issues for High Security Inmates
(03/21/2012)

PASADENA, Calif. — In 2011, California passed several bills that called for prison realignment in the state as a way to cut costs in the budget, as well as cut California’s prison population.

A federal court order was issued to California to reduce its prison population by June 2013. The order called to reduce overcrowding in California’s 33 prisons to no more than 137.7 percent of the design capacity by 2013, according to a report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

However, with the thousands of low-level felons being shifted to county custody — making space for maximum-security inmates has been an issue that has many correctional officials thinking of where to house these serious criminals.

“One thing that we’re recommending is that they try to maximize their use of their existing space to house high security inmates,” said analyst Drew Soderborg.

The report projected that over the years state prisons will have a surplus of 15,000 low security beds and a shortage of 13,000 high-security beds. The report provided examples on how to provide more space for high-security inmates.

One suggestion recommended converting reception centers to high-security facilities.

Other methods are taking place in the state as well including converting an existing prison in order to make room for high security inmates. Currently, correctional officials are in the process of transforming the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla into a men’s only prison. The LAO recommends that CDCR use the prison to house as many serious offenders as possible.

"We’re recommending that they identify if there’s any other facilities out there that they can use to house high security inmates," said Soderborg.

By converting existing facilities and changing from low to high security will require additional costs for construction, equipment and necessary staffing.

Soderberg offers further suggestions, saying the state could save money by shutting down some of its more expensive prisons, including the California Institution for Men in Chino. The California Institution for Men in Chino currently houses around 1,400 medium- to maximum-security inmates. The Deuel Vocational Institution offers the same level of security — but spends $10,000 less per inmate annually than the Chino facility.

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