Judiciary and Criminal Justice
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) is responsible for the incarceration, training, education, and care of adult felons and nonfelon narcotic addicts. It also supervises and treats parolees released to the community.
The department now operates 33 institutions, including a central medical facility, a treatment center for narcotic addicts under civil commitment, and a substance abuse treatment facility for incarcerated felons. The CDC system also includes 12 reception centers to process newly committed prisoners, 16 community correctional facilities, 38 fire and conservation camps, the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center, 33 community reentry and restitution programs, 130 parole offices, and 4 outpatient psychiatric services clinics.
Expenditure Growth to Slow. The budget proposes total expenditures of $4.2 billion for the CDC in 1999-00. This is $127 million, or 3.1 percent, above the revised estimate for current-year expenditures. The primary cause of this increase is the growth in the inmate population and the related expansion of state prison staff. Under the budget plan, the CDC workforce would grow by about 1,500 personnel-years, or 3.5 percent, above the projected 1998-99 staffing level. This projected 1999-00 growth in the CDC workforce compares with anticipated growth of about 3,700 personnel-years, or 9 percent, during 1998-99.
The budget includes $37 million to reflect the additional full-year cost of staff and new programs added during the current year, with most of that sum for custody staff needed to activate additional prison beds.
The 1999-00 budget proposal for CDC represents a significant slowdown in the growth of its expenditures. The CDC expenditures have not grown by a smaller dollar amount since 1983-84, except for 1992-93--a year when the state faced an unusually large revenue shortfall and CDC spending actually decreased slightly. The CDC expenditures have not otherwise grown this slowly on a percentage basis since 1967-68, when they went up 3 percent. As discussed below, the proposed slowdown in correctional spending is associated with a slowing in the growth in the inmate population and related growth in CDC staffing.
General Fund Expenditures. Proposed General Fund expenditures for the budget year total $4 billion, an increase of about $135 million, or 3.5 percent, above the revised estimate for current-year General Fund expenditures.
The General Fund contribution to the proposed budget would grow slightly more than the CDC budget overall. One major reason is a decline in the availability of bond funds to partly offset CDC costs. In prior years, bond funds that were no longer needed for completed prison construction projects were used to offset the ongoing payments provided in the budget to pay off lease-payment bonds. For 1999-00, bond reimbursements are budgeted at about $68 million, a decline of about $11 million, or 14 percent, below current-year expenditures. Because the state has nearly exhausted these surplus bond funds, larger General Fund appropriations to CDC are now required to pay off these bonds.
Federal Fund Expenditures. The Governor's budget assumes that the state will receive $273 million from the federal government during 1999-00 as partial reimbursement of CDC's cost (estimated to be $557 million in the budget year) of incarcerating and supervising felons on parole who are illegally in the United States and have committed crimes in California. That is $100 million more than would likely be received under current appropriations, and assumes that the federal government will significantly increase its spending for these purposes. The federal funds are not included in CDC's budget display, but instead are scheduled as "offsets" to total state General Fund expenditures. We discuss this assumption in more detail later in this analysis.
Figures 1 through 5 illustrate the characteristics of the state's prison population, which was 158,207 as of June 30, 1998. The charts show:
The Department of Corrections projects that the prison population will increase over the next five years, reaching a total of almost 208,000 inmates by June 2004. This represents a slower rate of growth than the department has experienced in the 1990s. Recent trends indicate, however, that the growth rate will be even slower than the new projections would suggest.
Inmate Population Growth. As of June 30, 1998, the CDC housed 158,207 inmates in prisons, fire and conservation camps, and community correctional facilities. Based on the fall 1998 population forecast prepared by the CDC, the inmate count would reach about 165,400 by June 30, 1999, and increase further to 173,100 by June 30, 2000. These figures represent an annual population increase of 4.5 percent in the current year and 4.7 percent in the budget year. As can be seen in Figure 6, this continues an upward trend in the prison population that has been evident since the early 1980s.
The CDC projections assume that the population will increase further over the following four years, reaching 208,000 inmates by June 30, 2004. This represents an average annual population increase of about 3.9 percent over the six-year period from 1997-98 through 2003-04.
Parole Population Growth. As of June 30, 1998, the CDC supervised 108,750 persons on parole. The fall 1998 projections assume that the parole population will be 114,700 as of June 30, 1999, and will increase to 120,300 by June 30, 2000. These figures assume a parole population increase of 5.5 percent in the current year and 4.8 percent in the budget year.
The fall 1998 projections also assume that the population will increase further over the following four years, reaching a total of 135,200 parolees by June 30, 2004. This represents an average annual population increase of about 3.7 percent.
Change From Prior Projections. The fall 1998 projection of the inmate population has decreased significantly from the prior CDC forecast (spring 1998). The new fall 1998 forecast for June 30, 1999 is about 4,700 inmates lower than the spring forecast--roughly equal to the number of inmates housed in one prison. As can been seen in Figure 7, the differences between the spring 1998 and fall 1998 inmate projections at first widen over the next several years, but narrow again in the long run.
|Total Inmate Population
Recent CDC Projections
|Projection as of:||Difference|
|Spring 1998||Fall 1998|
|a For selected years.|
As regards the parole population, the fall 1998 projection reflects a significant increase relative to the prior, spring 1998 CDC forecast. The new fall 1998 forecast for June 30, 1999 is about 3,500 parolees higher than the spring forecast. As can been seen in Figure 8 (see next page), the differences between the spring 1998 and fall 1998 parole projections at first widen over the next several years, but narrow again in the long run.
|Total Parole Population
Recent CDC Projections
|Projection as of:||Difference|
|Spring 1998||Fall 1998|
|a For selected years.|
Why the Forecasts Have Changed. According to CDC, the lower projections in the prison population, along with the higher projections in the parole population, are primarily due to evidence that fewer parolees are failing while on parole in the community. Fewer are being returned to state prison through an administrative process of the Board of Prison Terms for violation of their conditions of parole. In addition, fewer are being sent back to prison by the courts for new violations of law than had been assumed for the spring 1998 forecast.
That has the effect both of holding down growth in the prison population and bolstering the size of the parole population. In modifying its population projections, CDC did not offer any explanation why fewer parolees are being returned to state custody.
Potential Risks to Accuracy of Projections. As we have indicated in past years, the accuracy of the department's latest projections remain dependent upon a number of other significant factors. Among the factors that could cause population figures to vary from the projections are:
Significant further changes in any of these areas could easily result in a prison growth rate higher or lower than contained in CDC's projections.
Current Inmate Count Running Below Projections. At the time this analysis was prepared, the actual CDC inmate count had already varied significantly from CDC's fall 1998 projections. The CDC had overestimated the number of inmates who would be incarcerated as of mid-January 1999, by almost 2,900. As of that same date, the fall 1998 projections underestimated the number of parolees being supervised on parole by almost 1,000.
During the first half of 1998-99, the prison population grew at the lowest rate in many years--about 1,700 inmates, or 1 percent, on an annual basis. As can be seen in Figure 9, it has not been unusual in recent
years for the CDC system to absorb growth of 11,000 inmates annually. The growth rate has not been this low since 1991-92, a period when CDC aggressively expanded parole services and standardized its handling of parole violations with the result that parole revocation rates dropped.
Part of the reason that prison growth has slowed may be due to changes in the pattern of decision-making by parole authorities regarding when misconduct by a parolee constitutes grounds for revocation and reincarceration of an offender for a parole violation and when alternative types of sanctions are deemed appropriate. Administrative changes in such decision-making have had a significant impact on prison population levels in the past. In the early 1990s, for example, CDC administrators established more consistent decision-making in such matters and the parole revocation rate declined significantly.
Part of the reason may also be a $5.5 million expansion of parolee services, such as substance-abuse counseling and short-term residential shelters, approved last year by the Legislature and the Governor. We recommended such an increase in services in the belief that it would result in more offenders paroling safely into the community and fewer returned to state custody for new crimes or parole violations. Notably, when CDC eliminated about $5 million in these parole services in 1997, the rate of parole failure increased significantly and the state experienced an unexpected surge in its prison population. The restoration of these funds may also be contributing to the decline in the parole failure rate.
Budget Modified to Reflect Trend. The Governor's January budget proposal for CDC is ordinarily based upon CDC projections released the previous fall. However, that is not the case for the proposed 1999-00 CDC budget. In preparing the budget, the Department of Finance made fiscal adjustments to reflect the growing discrepancy between the fall 1998 projections and actual inmate and parole population counts.
Specifically, the budget plan assumes that the population held in state prisons will average 489 fewer inmates than projected during 1998-99 and 1,453 fewer inmates than projected during 1999-00. Relatively minor adjustments were also made to the parole population. Because of these inmate and parole population adjustments, the budget assumes that about $5.3 million less in funding will be spent for prison operations during 1998-99 than if the budget plan were based strictly on CDC's fall 1998 projections. Similarly, the adjustments mean that about $16.5 million less in funding was budgeted for prison operations during 1999-00 than if the budget plan were based strictly on CDC's population figures.
We recommend that the 1999-00 budget request for inmate and parole population growth be reduced by $29.7 million because prison population growth continues to lag below California Department of Corrections (CDC) projections. We further recommend that the budget request for correctional officer cadet training and inmate mental health services be reduced by $3.6 million to account for the slower pace of population growth.
As regards the current year, we believe that CDC population expenditures will be $33.9 million less than budgeted. Further changes to the CDC budget for the current and budget years should be considered following review of the May Revision. (Reduce Item 5240-001-0001 by $33.4 million.)
As we indicated earlier, CDC's fall 1998 population projections appear to have overestimated the number of inmates who are being incarcerated and understated the number of parolees under supervision. The Governor's budget, as submitted, adjusts CDC's fall 1998 projections to reflect the slower growth rate. However, we believe that if current trends hold, the adjustments made by the Governor's budget will be insufficient. Our estimates of the CDC inmate population, which take into account more recent trends, are shown in Figure 10.
|Inmate Population Projectionsa|
|California Department of Corrections||161,879||168,934|
|Department of Financeb||161,390||167,481|
|Legislative Analyst's Office||158,592||164,572|
|a Average daily population.|
|b Reflected in 1999-00 Governor's Budget.|
Current-Year Effect. Based on the population data available at the time we prepared this analysis, we estimate that the average daily population of the prison system in 1998-99 will be about 2,400 inmates below the number assumed in the Governor's budget plan. We further estimate that the average daily parole population will be about 1,000 higher than had been assumed. We estimate that the net effect of these two changes would be a savings in the current year of $29.7 million.
Budget-Year Effect. We anticipate that this fiscal trend will carry over into 1999-00. Based on available population counts, we estimate that the average daily prison population in the budget year will be almost 2,500 fewer inmates below the number assumed in the proposed budget. We further estimate that the average daily parole population will be about 2,000 higher than had been assumed in the budget plan. Based on these calculations, we believe that CDC is overbudgeted for growth in its inmate and parole caseloads by $29.7 million.
The CDC will issue updated population projections in spring 1999 that form the basis of the May Revision. At that time, we will review whether further adjustments to CDC's funding for inmate and parole caseloads are warranted.
Effect on Other CDC Expenditures. If current inmate population trends hold, the CDC would need to train fewer new correctional officers to staff its prisons. It also would not need to increase its budget for services to mentally ill inmates by as much as the Governor's budget plan provides. Funding for both items is tied to inmate population levels.
We estimate that budget request for correctional officer cadet training should be reduced by $3.3 million, and the budget request for mental health services for inmates by $341,000, to be consistent with recent population trends. The Legislature should also assume that the CDC will spend $4 million less on cadet training and $167,000 less on mental health services for inmates in 1998-99.
Analyst's Recommendation. In summary, we recommend that the 1999-00 CDC budget be reduced by $29.7 million from the General Fund to reflect slower CDC inmate population growth. Additionally, the CDC budget for cadet training and inmate mental health services should be reduced by $3.6 million because of slower growth in the inmate population. The current-year budget is also likely to reflect savings of about $33.9 million due to slower CDC caseload growth. We recommend that the Legislature consider making further CDC caseload adjustments at the time of the May Revision.
We withhold recommendation on the Department of Corrections' (CDC's) plan for housing the projected increase in the prison population because the slowdown in the rate of inmate population growth has made elements of the plan obsolete. We anticipate that the CDC will revise the plan at the time of the May Revision.
Prison Overcrowding to Continue. The Governor's housing plan provides for the continued overcrowding of day rooms, gyms, and housing units at various existing prisons. However, many specific prison bed activation proposals included in the plan are unlikely to occur because of the slowing in the rate of prison population growth, rendering many of its elements obsolete.
The housing plan assumes the state will move ahead with projects authorized by the Legislature last year to build 1,000 administrative segregation beds for high-risk inmates on the grounds of the existing state prisons. It also seeks staffing and funding to contract for an additional 2,000 beds with private vendors. The Governor's budget does not propose to construct any new state-operated prisons.
Analyst's Recommendation. Because the inmate population is running below the fall 1998 projections upon which the CDC housing plan was based, it is likely that it will change significantly by the May Revision. Thus, we withhold recommendation on the plan at this time pending receipt of CDC's revised prison inmate population projections and the updated housing plan provided in the May Revision.
The state continues to face a major challenge to accommodate the steadily growing population of prison inmates, but recent projections indicate that it will have some additional time to prepare to meet that challenge. We recommend the state undertake further efforts this year to accommodate future growth in the inmate population using a balanced approach weighted almost evenly between adding new prison capacity and enacting policy changes that would reduce the expected population.
System Nearing Long-Term Capacity. Despite the recent slow-down in inmate population growth, the prison system is approaching its long-term housing capacity of 175,000 inmates (including additional capacity for 4,000 inmates approved in September 1998). By long-term housing capacity, we mean that most of the general inmate population is housed two per cell with double-bunking in dormitories and gymnasiums. This capacity does not include about 7,200 beds--triple bunks in prison dormitories and gymnasiums and double bunks on dayroom floors in celled housing units--that the department does use now but considers to be a "high-security risk" and thus not a viable long-term housing alternative.
When the spring 1998 projections were released, CDC expected the inmate population to reach the long-term capacity level in mid-2000. The new fall projections, together with the most recent population trends, indicate that this will not occur until at least a year later.
Progress in Addressing the Problem. Recent actions taken by the Legislature and the Governor (and not yet reflected in CDC's population projections) will likely cause the date the system reaches long-term capacity to slip even further. A $177 million legislative package signed into law by the Governor on September 14, 1998, will add almost 4,000 beds to the prison system (half in state-operated prison facilities and half through contracts for inmate bed space with private-sector vendors).
Moreover, the legislative package, together with an additional $13 million provided through the 1998-99 Budget Act, expands state and local programs designed to slow the rate of growth in the inmate population. (Issues pertaining to the way in which the Governor's budget plan implements the legislative package are discussed later in this analysis.) We estimate that, if fully implemented over the next six years, these new or expanded programs would reduce the need for additional prison space by at least 5,000 beds. There are some indications that they may already have played a role in slowing inmate population growth. The restoration of casework services money has enabled parole agents to provide parolees with programs and services that will keep some offenders safely in the community instead of returning them to prison.
We believe the recent actions taken by the Legislature and Governor will benefit the state by holding down future state incarceration costs while improving public safety. However, we do not believe that this package by itself will be sufficient to address the entire long-term prison capacity problem facing the state. After taking the effect of this package into account, we estimate that the state would run out of bed space by as soon as 2001 and would need additional space for as many as 27,000 inmates by June 30, 2004. That is the equivalent of five to six state-operated prisons carrying a one-time construction cost of $1.6 billion and annual ongoing operational costs of more than $500 million.
Take a Balanced Approach. Given the significant amount of overcrowding in the prison system now and the CDC projections of many more inmates to come, we recommend that the Legislature and administration undertake further efforts in 1999 to accommodate future growth in the inmate population. In our view, such efforts should emphasize a balanced approach, weighted almost evenly between adding new prison capacity and enacting policy changes that would reduce the expected inmate population growth. We offered such an approach in our May 1997 report, Addressing the State's Long-Term Inmate Population Growth. The package enacted in 1998 was consistent with the principles outlined in that report, but additional steps will be needed.
Such a balanced approach should include measures that will reduce the need for additional prison beds--such as restructuring the state parole system, reform of state sentencing laws, and the expansion and improvement of existing academic, vocational, and Prison Industry Authority programs. This approach should also include measures that expand prison capacity--by constructing additional new state-run prisons, adding more beds to the grounds of some existing prisons, and/or contracting for more community correctional facility beds with vendors. We believe this balanced approach toward addressing the prison capacity problem will prove cost-effective and will minimize the risks to public safety.
A more detailed discussion of some of these options can be found in our May 1997 report on prison capacity issues; our April 1996 report, Reforming the Prison Industry Authority; and in the Judiciary and Criminal Justice Section of the 1998-99 Analysis of the Budget Bill. An additional option for addressing the prison capacity issue by reducing the recidivism of high-risk sex offenders is discussed in the Crosscutting Issues section of this chapter.
Largely because of the state's fiscal constraints, the Governor's budget plan does not completely implement a 1998 legislative agreement to balance expansion of prison capacity with new programs intended to reduce high recidivism rates of offenders released on parole. We recommend that the Legislature consider a $9.5 million augmentation for certain programs to more completely fulfill the 1998 agreement, and offer recommendations on related issues.
Budget Only Partially Consistent With Legislative Direction. During its 1998 session, the Legislature reached agreement on a balanced package of measures intended to increase the long-term housing capacity of the state prison system as well as cost-effective expansions of state and local programs designed to slow the rate of growth of the prison population. The key measures relating to adult corrections were Chapter 500 (SB 491, Brulte), Chapter 502 (SB 2108, Vasconcellos), and Chapter 526 (AB 2321, Knox). Other provisions were contained in the 1998-99 Budget Act.
As described in Figure 11, the Governor's budget does not fully implement all elements of that package on the original timetable and at the ultimate program service levels that were contemplated in the agreement.
|Budget Plan Modifies the 1998 Corrections Agreement|
|Governor's Budget Plan||LAO Analysis of Modifications|
|In-prison drug treatment and community aftercare expansion||$10 million||$6.1 million||$26.4 million||More gradual phase-in of new beds appears justified|
|Preventing Parolee Crime Program expansion||$3 million||$1.6 million||$1.8 million||Fails to expand literacy labs, multiservice centers, or substance abuse networks|
|Prerelease program expansion||$1 million||$500,000||$1 million||Phase-in of new program appears justified|
|Offender job placement services expansion||$1 million||$769,000||$1 million||Phase-in of new program appears justified|
|Pilot programs for women offenders||$6 million||$3 million||$5.9 million||Assists fewer offenders and provides less job training than was proposed|
|Parole casework services funding restoration||$5.5 million||$5.5 million||$5.5 million||Full implementation on original proposed schedule|
|Work and education program expansion||$2.5 million||$2.5 million||$5 million||Full implementation on original proposed schedule|
Our review found that some of the reductions in spending levels and the slower phase-in of the new programs are for valid, technical reasons. For example, the budget plan does not include funding for computerized literacy laboratories for parolees because a Feasibility Study Report (FSR) ordinarily required for such information technology projects was not ready at the time the budget plan was prepared.
Other reductions in the Governor's budget reflect decisions to slow down or reduce the program to a level at odds with the 1998 legislative agreement. For example, although CDC was prepared to carry out a $3 million expansion of the Preventing Parolee Crime program in 1998-99, about half of the $3 million legislative appropriation is left unspent until 1999-00 and the expenditures would top out at $1.8 million in 1999-00. Moreover, the CDC budget does not comply with last year's supplemental report language requiring automatic adjustments to the Preventing Parolee Crime program that keep pace with growth in the parole caseload.
We would note that the Governor's budget provides for the full expansion of prison capacity approved in the 1998 legislative agreement, although with some changes in timing and funding sources.
Reinvestment of Some Savings Should Be Considered. We believe it is important that the legislative agreement be fulfilled to the maximum extent feasible, taking into account appropriate technical limitations on the timing and use of the funds and the state's fiscal constraints. Accordingly, we recommend that the Legislature consider reinvesting a portion of the population-related spending reduction we identified in the CDC budget to more completely fulfill the 1998 legislative agreement. Such an approach is in keeping with the Legislature's policy decision to address the challenge posed by existing prison overcrowding and limitations on the state's long-term housing capacity.
We also suggest some specific improvements in the way the appropriated funds are used and address other related issues. Our analysis indicates that these programs are likely to result in savings on prison operations and construction, greater than their costs. Our specific proposals are discussed below.
We further recommend that state law be changed so that offenders with a recent drug-related felony conviction, including many of the women who will be participating in the pilot programs described above, are eligible for welfare services such as drug treatment, child care, and education (but not cash grants).
We do not propose at this time to fund this program under the state's welfare program, known as CalWORKS (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids). However, this change would permit almost all of the state's expenditures for the female offenders program to be counted toward the CalWORKs maintenance-of-effort (MOE) requirement, giving the state additional flexibility on its use of General Fund resources. (The implications of counting these expenditures toward the state's CalWORKS MOE are discussed in the Health and Welfare chapter of this Analysis.) We also believe the statutory change is an appropriate public policy that would help reduce the welfare dependency of the families of women offenders.
We recommend approval of $1.8 million requested to screen the prison inmate population to identify offenders who are developmentally disabled. However, we recommend denial at this time of $3.5 million requested to provide specialized programs for developmentally disabled inmates because their number and location in the prison system is unknown and because a plan to provide these services is still being negotiated as part of a lawsuit. (Reduce Item 5240-001-0001 by $3.5 million.)
Request Tied to Pending Court Case. The budget includes $5.3 million to establish a new program to screen, identify, track, and provide specialized services for prison inmates with various developmental disabilities--such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism. The new program would operate in as many as 12 different state prisons and require a workforce of 116 personnel-years.
The request is prompted by efforts to resolve a pending federal class-action lawsuit filed by developmentally disabled inmates who contended that they were discriminated against on the basis of their mental impairment. The legal parties have agreed to a process by which CDC and legal representatives of the inmates are negotiating a remedial plan to identify and address the needs of developmentally disabled inmates. The CDC indicates that funding for the proposed program is needed if the state is to settle the case and avoid prolonged litigation and the imposition by the court of a more costly solution than would result from a negotiated settlement.
No Agreement on Plans. We are advised that, despite ongoing negotiations between the parties, strong disagreements remain over many elements of the state's proposed remedial plan. Among the most significant disputes is the state's proposal to establish specialized services for more severely developmentally disabled inmates at a number of different prisons. The CDC indicates that this approach is necessary to "mainstream" these offenders into prison programs and to ensure security. The plaintiffs in the case contend it would be more efficient and more effective to cluster such inmates together at fewer locations and, in the process, protect them from being victimized by nondisabled inmates.
As is customary in such legal negotiations, CDC's remedial plan has been undergoing changes. The CDC budget request is based on the assumption that 12 prisons would provide services. A subsequent plan submitted to plaintiffs indicates that such services would actually be available at 14 prisons, and we are advised that yet another plan still under development could propose a ten-prison plan. Further changes appear likely as negotiations proceed.
Complicating the negotiating process is the fact that the state does not know how many developmentally disabled offenders it has in prison, how many have a severe disability requiring more extensive services, the makeup of this group according to their security classification, or their program needs. That information almost certainly cannot be determined with accuracy until the state undertakes efforts to screen and identify developmentally disabled offenders.
That makes it impossible to know what the ultimate cost would be of the program being proposed by CDC. The CDC says the number of developmentally disabled inmates is probably between 2 percent and 10 percent of the general prison population--in other words, somewhere between 3,000 and 16,000 inmates. Knowing the actual prevalence, in our view, is critical to the design of an efficient and effective program to meet the needs of this specialized population.
Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend that the Legislature approve the $1.8 million requested in the budget year to screen and identify inmates in its prison population but recommend denial at this time of the $3.8 million sought for implementation of specialized services.
In our view, this approach would demonstrate the state's good-faith intention to reach a negotiated agreement on a remedial plan and permit CDC to move forward immediately with the screening and identification efforts that are needed first to design an appropriate program. The CDC could reinstate its request for additional funding to implement services for this group of inmates once a remedial plan has been negotiated and the prevalence of this group in the prison population can be estimated with greater accuracy.
We recommend approval of $1.4 million and 2.8 personnel-years requested to provide community housing, more intensive counseling and treatment, and electronic monitoring of mentally ill offenders released on parole. However, we recommend denial of $3.6 million requested to hold parolees in secure private psychiatric facilities costing from $230 to $460 per day because it is unclear who the department would hold in these facilities and what legal authority it has to do so. (Reduce Item 5240-001-0001 by $3.6 million.)
Background. About 16,600 inmates are now receiving mental health services within the prison system, and another 8,000 parolees under active state supervision are receiving such services from Parole Outpatient Clinics. State law authorizes the courts in various civil and criminal proceedings to order mentally ill and dangerous offenders, including inmates nearing their parole release dates deemed to be Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) or Mentally Disordered Offenders (MDOs), to be involuntarily committed to state mental hospitals for treatment. State law also authorizes the use of electronic monitoring devices to track the location of offenders released on parole.
In the past, the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) sometimes ordered prison inmates who were nearing their parole release dates to continue to be held in state prison for up to another year on the grounds that they needed psychiatric treatment. However, in July 1998, a state appellate court ruled that this practice was illegal absent any conduct by the inmate indicating that his mental health has deteriorated to the point he is likely to commit further criminal acts. The court found that BPT lacked any statutory authority for such actions, and that other legal remedies were available, such as the SVP or MDO law, to protect the public from mentally ill and dangerous offenders.
As a result of this so-called Whitley ruling (formally known as Terhune v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County), the state was forced to release a number of offenders, while others are again being held because they committed parole violations resulting in their return to prison or because they received a court-ordered commitment to a state mental hospital.
New Proposal for Mentally Ill Offenders. The budget requests $5 million and 2.8 personnel-years for a new program involving parolees with psychiatric problems.
The CDC request includes about $3.6 million to contract with private secure psychiatric facilities at rates between $230 and $460 per day for mental health treatment for 80 parolees, who it has indicated would be placed there involuntarily as a condition of their parole. The CDC has advised us that parolees selected for placement in these beds would be those who, while mentally ill, are nonetheless ineligible for court-ordered commitments to state mental hospitals and also ineligible for revocation of their parole on psychiatric grounds.
The request also includes about $1 million to place 57 parolees in nonsecure community residential facilities, about $200,000 to contract for the electronic monitoring of parolees in the community, and about $180,000 for additional staffing for Parole Outpatient Clinics to provide more intensive counseling and treatment of an unspecified number of parolees.
Concerns About the Proposal. We are concerned about the portion of the CDC request relating to holding parolees involuntarily in secure private psychiatric facilities, for two primary reasons.
We do not object to other provisions of the budget request providing housing, electronic monitoring, and more intensive treatment at community clinics for mentally ill offenders.
Analyst's Recommendation. For these reasons, we recommend approval of $1.4 million and 2.8 personnel-years for housing, electronic monitoring, and treatment services for mentally ill offenders, but recommend denial of the $3.6 million funding request for holding parolees involuntarily in secured housing due to the lack of clear criteria for determining who is subject to such commitments and CDC's failure to cite statutory authority for making such a commitment without the approval of a court.
We recommend a reduction of $16.3 million requested in the Department of Corrections (CDC) budget for leased jail beds, institutional staffing, and training proposals for correctional officers. We withhold recommendation on $6.5 million for the Correctional Management Information System information technology project because key project activities have fallen behind schedule. We also withhold recommendation on $1 million sought for contracting for community correctional facility beds because no information supporting this specific expenditure request had been provided to the Legislature. We recommend that the Legislature initiate an audit of prison personnel management policies and practices. Also, we recommend that CDC update the Legislature at budget hearings regarding the status of several overdue reports on various correctional issues. (Reduce Item 5240-001-0001 by $16.3 million.)
The proposed 1999-00 CDC budget includes funding relating to jail beds leased from Los Angeles County, correctional officer training, the Correctional Management Information System (CMIS) information technology project, community correctional facility beds, and prison staff overtime. Also, prior budget acts have included budget bill and supplemental report language mandating reports to the Legislature on various correctional issues.
Analyst's Recommendation. We withhold recommendation on various budget requests for which CDC has not provided sufficient justification. We further recommend deletion or a reduction of funding for other proposed expenditures that we have found are not justified, and offer other recommendations as outlined below:
The Governor's budget assumes that the state will receive $273 million in federal funds to cover the state's costs of incarcerating and supervising undocumented immigrants. This is about $100 million, or 58 percent, more than the budget assumes the state will receive in the current year. The funds are not counted in the budget bill, but are counted as offsets to state General Fund spending. Our review indicates that the assumption for a large increase in reimbursements is highly risky.
As indicated in the Overview at the beginning of this chapter, the budget assumes that the state will receive $273 in federal funds in 1999-00 to offset the state's costs to incarcerate and supervise undocumented immigrants in CDC and the Department of the Youth Authority. This is about $100 million, or 58 percent, more than the administration estimates that the state will receive in the current year.
These federal funds are counted as offsets to state expenditures and are not shown in the budgets of CDC and the Youth Authority, or in the budget bill. Thus, the Governor's budget would hold CDC and the Youth Authority budgets harmless should the federal funds not materialize.
State's Share Has Been Declining. California has received the largest share of federal funds since the federal government began reimbursing the states five years ago for incarcerating undocumented immigrants. However, the state's share has gradually declined since federal fiscal year (FFY) 1996 when the state received more than 50 percent of the funds, to less than 30 percent in the last federal allocation. This drop in the state's share is due, in part, to federal decisions to make local governments eligible for reimbursement. Also, California's share has probably declined as other states have improved their capabilities to identify the pool of offenders for whom they can request reimbursement. (California was well-prepared to identify the pool when the federal government began the reimbursement program.)
Budget Assumption Is Risky. Although we believe that the state has an excellent case to claim more money from the federal government to cover the costs of incarcerating and supervising undocumented offenders (the state estimates that its costs exceed $500 million a year), we believe that the Governor's budget assumption that the state will receive $273 million in reimbursements in the budget year is highly risky for two reasons.
First, even if Congress appropriates more money, it is likely that the state's share will continue to decline as more jurisdictions throughout the nation improve their claiming abilities and apply for reimbursement.
Second, and more importantly, in order to achieve the additional $100 million, Congress would have to appropriate significantly more for the program than it has in the past. By our calculations, even if California continued to receive the same share of funds it received in the most recent allocation, Congress would have to roughly double its FFY 2000 appropriation for the program to more than $1 billion in order for there to be enough money to meet the Governor's budget assumption. We note that the President's budget proposal for FFY 2000, which was released in early February, requests less than the amount appropriated by Congress for the past two FFYs.