California state corrections department to get budget bump

California's prison house more than 100,000 people. The population has gotten so large more than 4,000 are housed out of state in Mississippi and Arizona.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
California's prison house more than 100,000 people. The population has gotten so large more than 4,000 are housed out of state in Mississippi and Arizona. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California's newly-passed $122 billion budget includes more than $10 billion for the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The department, which runs the state's 35 prisons, is also getting a funding bump over the prior year – an estimated $593 million. The 5.8 percent increase would bring the department's total budget to more than $10.7 billion. That will make it the fourth highest budget in the state after K-12 education, health and human services and higher education. 

Representatives from both the state's finance department and the CDCR were unable to confirm the final budget numbers. Scott Graves with the California Budget and Policy Center said state lawmakers must still approve bonds that supplement a small portion of the CDCR's budget. He said the state's general fund would likely supply the bulk – about $10.5 billion.

There are more than 128,000 inmates in California's 35 prisons, according to a recent department count. That number is down from previous years, in part because of Proposition 47 which relaxed penalties for drug offenders.

But UC Berkeley criminologist Barry Krisberg said the prison population is expected to trickle back up in the future. A state finance report projects that by the year 2020, it will surpass 131,000 inmates.

"The main dynamic pushing the California prison population is not so much the number of people entering prison, it's how long they're staying, said Krisberg.

The additional state funds will cover the cost to house those inmates and pay prison employees, who are due for salary increases.

Krisberg said the only way to reduce the CDCR's budget would be to close prison facilities, adding "I don't see plans for that right now."

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