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An inmate at the Mule Creek State Prison sits on his bunk bed in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners August 28, 2007 in Ione, California.
The state's Legislative Analyst's Office is saying lawmakers should cancel plans to expand state prison medical facilities, according to a report released Thursday.
More facilities may not be needed because a new law that diverts low-level felons to counties is thinning out California’s inmate population.
A couple years ago state lawmakers agreed to fund a new 1,700-bed medical and mental health facility that’s set to open next year in Stockton. It’s for inmates who need around-the-clock nursing care.
Inmates with chronic or complex diseases who can still function on their own were to be housed at converted juvenile justice facilities.
"We don’t think that those are going to be needed," said Aaron Edwards with the Legislative Analyst's Office. "After realignment’s implemented, prison overcrowding is going to be reduced significantly. And as a result it’s going to be a lot easier for the department to deliver adequate care within existing facilities."
California’s "realignment” law began shifting low-level felons to counties in October. The state’s inmate population has dropped by 16,000 since then and expected to fall by 40,000 inmates within a few years.
State lawmakers passed realignment to comply with a federal court order to reduce crowding in prisons after a three-judge panel found that overcrowding prevents inmates from getting adequate medical care.
The federal receiver tasked with improving that care has said he still needs the additional medical facilities to treat inmates who require higher levels of attention than standard prisons can provide.