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CDCR Secretary Tilton Tours Centinela State Prison to View Overcrowding, Highlight the Need for Reform

CENTINELA – California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary James E. Tilton toured Centinela State Prison, today with Warden Victor Almager to view the impacts of overcrowding, and highlight the urgent need for comprehensive prison reform.

“California’s prison system is in the midst of a severe overcrowding crisis. Concrete steps must be taken immediately to fix the situation and protect public safety,” said Secretary Tilton. “Centinela State Prison is experiencing many of the same problems as the prison system as a whole. California has nearly 17,000 inmates out of 171,000 living on double- and triple-bunks in gymnasiums, dayrooms, and other spaces not intended for housing.”

Centinela State Prison currently houses 4,949 inmates, with nearly 120 inmates living in temporary emergency beds in dayrooms, gymnasiums and classrooms designed for rehabilitative activities. An additional 440 emergency beds are expected to be activated in the near future.

“This severe overcrowding places inmates and prison staff at risk. When inmates are spending the majority of their day in a cell or on a bunk, it increases tension inside the institution that can lead to violence,” said Secretary Tilton. “By relieving overcrowding, we will give wardens tools to provide programming to those inmates who could benefit from them the most. We will also give them increased flexibility to better deal with those inmates who are causing the most problems.”

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a comprehensive prison reform proposal that will help to strengthen public safety by building and modernizing correctional facilities, reforming California’s parole and sentencing structures, and placing a renewed focus on reducing recidivism through rehabilitation programs.

These proposals are designed to relieve overcrowding without prematurely releasing offenders by adding 78,000 beds in state prisons and local jails. It will also provide the space needed for education, rehabilitative programs, and medical, dental and mental health care. This comprehensive package will address California’s high recidivism rates by funding programs to help offenders with drug treatment, job training and housing assistance.

The Governor’s proposal also devotes $1.6 billion to build secure reentry facilities in local communities to help inmates successfully transition back into society.

Upgrades and expansions at Centinela State Prison are part of the prison reform proposals. Approximately $86.9 million is being proposed for construction, to add low- and medium-security beds (Level I and II) to the prison, which currently is a Level III facility. The proposal would add 590 beds, 400 of which would be dorm style, consistent with low security inmate use, as well as other associated construction on the site. The new beds will help eliminate the prison’s use of temporary, emergency housing.

The Governor’s budget proposal also includes approximately $472,000 in mitigation funding, to be split between the county, local cities, and local schools. An additional $21.3 million in infrastructure upgrades are also being proposed for water conservation equipment, expansion of the water treatment facility, storm drainage, and electrical work.

“Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a comprehensive prison reform package that provides much needed space in our prisons for programs that will better equip inmates for a crime-free life after their incarceration. Local communities, law enforcement, and elected officials must all be engaged as part of the solution to the problems facing California due to crime, and jail and prison overcrowding,” said Secretary Tilton. “The Governor’s urgently-needed prison reforms are expected to be acted on as part of the state budget, which will be voted on by this summer. With courts threatening to take over the prison system and considering forcing the early release of inmates, lawmakers must take immediate action to ensure that inmates are not set free before they have served their time.”

View More on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Comprehensive Reform Proposal at: