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Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 2/26/2010
Budget Issue: Activation of the Northern California Reentry Facility.
Program: Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Finding or Recommendation: Reject Governor's proposal to provide $8.4 million in additional General Fund support to activate the Northern California Reentry Facility in 2010-11 with 100 beds, given that the per inmate costs are significantly high and that there are no clear benefits to activating the facility early as proposed.
Further Detail

Background. In May 2007, the Governor signed into law Chapter 7, Statutes of 2007 (AB 900, Solorio), a measure intended to relieve the significant overcrowding problems facing state prisons. Among other changes, AB 900 authorized $2.6 billion in lease-revenue bonds to construct up to 16,000 beds at “secure reentry facilities”—with up to 500 beds each—for inmates within one year of being released from custody prior to parole. Pursuant to this measure, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) plans to convert the former Northern California Women’s Facility in Stockton to a reentry facility. This reentry facility, referred to as the Northern California Reentry Facility (NCRF), will include 500 beds, serve the counties of San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Amador, and cost about $112 million. At this time, the department has not requested an allocation from the lease-revenue bonds authorized in AB 900 to plan and support this conversion.

Governor Proposes to Activate 100 Beds at NCRF. The Governor’s budget for 2010-11 proposes 67.6 positions and an $8.4 million General Fund augmentation for CDCR to initially activate NCRF with 100 minimum-security inmates in November 2010. According to the administration, these inmates will provide day labor to assist with making the modifications necessary to prepare the facility for full activation, which will likely not be until at least July 2011. The administration also indicates that the 100 inmates proposed to be housed at NCRF will participate in a wide range of rehabilitation programs, including education, anger management, and substance abuse treatment.

Proposal Raises Several Concerns. In reviewing the Governor’s budget proposal, we have identified the following three concerns:

  • Per Inmate Costs Significantly High. Under the proposal, NCRF would house 100 inmates at a cost of about $84,000 per inmate in 2010-11. This amount is nearly twice what CDCR generally spends to incarcerate inmates in its low-to-medium security prisons. For example, in 2009, the Bureau of State Audits found that about $37,800 to $46,200 was spent on each inmate in such prisons.
  • Cost Reductions in Other Facilities Not Assumed. In estimating the above costs, the department did not take into account that the 100 inmates that would be placed in these beds would otherwise have been housed in other CDCR facilities. Thus, fewer staff would be required elsewhere in the prison system. We estimate that the Governor’s proposal would reduce operational costs in these other facilities by about $2.3 million.
  • No Significant Benefits for Early Activation. Our analysis indicates that there are no significant benefits to the early activation of NCRF as proposed. For example, the 2009-10 budget already provided funding for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility until it is ready for full activation. In addition, the reentry facilities authorized in AB 900 are intended to provide inmates with intensive rehabilitation services. However, low-security inmates, such as those proposed for NCRF in 2010-11, generally do not require intensive rehabilitation. In fact, correctional experts and existing research recommend targeting such services to higher-risk offenders.

Recommend Rejecting Governor’s Proposal. In view of the above concerns, we recommend that the Legislature reject the Governor’s proposal to provide $8.4 million in additional General support to activate NCRF in 2010-11 with 100 beds.