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Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 5/29/2013
Budget Issue: Long-term offenders in county jails
Program: Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Finding or Recommendation: Withhold recommendation on May Revision proposal pending receipt of trailer bill.
Further Detail

Background. Under the 2011 realignment legislation, certain felony offenders who have no current or prior serious, violent, or sex-related offense are no longer sentenced to state prison. Instead, these offenders are sentenced to county jails. Historically, such offenders served about two years in state prison. However, some of these offenders can be sentenced for much lengthier periods of time.

Governor’s Proposal. The administration proposes to allow counties to send longer-term inmates that have served at least three years of their sentence to state prison in exchange for housing an equivalent number of prison inmates. Under the proposal, county parole boards would choose both which inmates they send to prison and which prison inmates they house in jail.

Governor's Proposal Raises Concerns. At this time, we have not received trailer bill language for this proposal, and the administration has not provided many details on how the program would work. While we think there may be merit in addressing the problem of long-term inmates housed in county jails, we are concerned that the proposal could result in significant net costs to the state because under the administration’s proposal, counties would be allowed to choose both which inmates they send to prison and which prison inmates they house in jail. As such, the state could not prevent counties from sending their most expensive jail inmates (such as those requiring intensive health care treatment or those who display behavioral problems) to the state while electing to house the least expensive state inmates. In addition, there remain several unanswered questions about the proposal, including (1) whether counties would be allowed to release the state inmates early due to jail overcrowding, and (2) the extent to which the state or counties could be impacted by lawsuits related to the transferred inmates.

LAO Recommendation. We withhold recommendation on this proposal pending our receipt of the proposed trailer bill language. Once the administration presents its language, we will evaluate the extent to which it addresses the above concerns.