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Corrections, Legislature Focus on Prison Reform; Several Bills Introduced During Special Session

Expanding reentry programs, new academy, out-of-state beds

Sacramento – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has collaborated with several members of the State Legislature during the special session this month to introduce several bills to solve the urgent issues of overcrowding and provide meaningful rehabilitation to protect public safety. The bills, introduced in both houses, focus on reentry programs for female and male offenders, construction of new facilities, and out-of-state placement for non-United States resident inmates.

“The Governor’s proposals are about more than building prisons,” CDCR Secretary (A) James Tilton said. “They give inmates critical tools before they are released. In the short run, we need space for beds. In the longer term, we need space for education, vocation and treatment programs that reduce the number of prison inmates who would compete for those beds.”

The bills introduced include:

  • ABX 1 (Assembly Member Sally Lieber) – would authorize CDCR to contract for 4,500 female beds for treatment and housing for non-serious/non-violent female offenders;
  • ABX 2 (Assembly Member Todd Spitzer) and SBX 3 (Senator Jim Battin) – would authorize CDCR to construct additional capacity at existing prisons within California. It would also allow CDCR to house male inmates at the Northern California Women’s Facility in Stockton;
  • ABX 4 (Assembly Member Nicole Parra) and SBX 1 (Senator George Runner) – would allow CDCR to construct two new prisons and allow CDCR to construct up to 5,000 reentry beds in California;
  • ABX 5 (Assembly Member Rudy Bermudez) and SBX 2 (Senator George Runner) – would allow CDCR to site and operate a training facility in southern California. Would also allow CDCR to use the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in Whittier to either house inmates or to train staff. It would also authorize CDCR to conduct its own in-house psychological screening of peace officer candidates;
  • ABX 6 (Assembly Member John Benoit) and SBX 4 (Senator Bob Dutton) – would allow CDCR to use the design-build construction method for building existing or new prisons in California;
  • ABX 9 (Assembly Member Sally Lieber) – would authorize CDCR to contract for up to 4,000 male community correctional beds;
  • ABX 10 (Assembly Member Sally Lieber) – would authorize CDCR to contract for up to 5,000 out-of-state beds to house undocumented felons;
  • Senator Jackie Speier introduced legislation on Aug. 18, yet to be numbered, that would authorize housing undocumented felons (ICE holds) in other states, and would authorize CDCR to contract for 4,500 female beds for treatment and housing of non-serious, non-violent female offenders.

The prison reform proposals focus on moving inmates to smaller, treatment-focused secure facilities in the communities where they will be released. At these facilities they can receive mental health treatment, drug and alcohol counseling, and job training just prior to release. The facilities also provide inmate and parolees an opportunity to connect with social services and local law enforcement early-on, increasing the ability of the police, parole, and treatment providers to improve reentry success.

“California’s prisons cannot offer rehabilitation programs unless CDCR has more space,” Tilton added. “These reforms will provide space for 40,000 beds over the next five years.”

State prison overcrowding delays the transfer of inmates from county jails, forcing the early release of county prisoners. Today, 30 California counties operate under federally-imposed caps on jail populations, while another 12 operate under self-imposed caps.

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