2009-10 Budget Analysis Series: Judicial and Criminal Justice

Executive Summary

In this report, we (1) provide an overview of state spending on judicial and criminal justice programs, (2) analyze the Governor’s budget proposals and present our own recommendations to assist the Legislature in balancing the 2009–10 budget, and (3) identify issues that could potentially have a significant impact on future state expenditures.

Overview of Judicial and Criminal Justice Programs and Expenditures

Major State Programs. The primary goal of California’s criminal justice system is to provide public safety by deterring and preventing crime, incarcerating individuals who commit crime, and reintegrating criminals back into the community. The major state judicial and criminal justice programs include the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as the state court system.

Governor Proposes to Reduce Total Expenditures. For 2009–10, the Governor’s budget proposes General Fund expenditures of about $12.3 billion for judicial and criminal justice programs. This is a decrease of about $786 million, or 6 percent, below the proposed revised level of current–year spending for these programs. Under the budget proposal, General Fund support for CDCR would decrease by about 8 percent, while the budgets for the Judicial Branch and DOJ would increase slightly.

Balancing the 2009–10 Budget

Reducing State Correctional Populations. The Governor’s budget includes savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars from reducing adult inmate and parole populations by (1) providing direct discharge (no parole supervision) for certain inmates released from prison, (2) expanding inmate credits, and (3) updating certain property crime thresholds. We assess the Governor’s proposal. We also present an alternative package of correctional population proposals that attempts to provide a better balance between the need to achieve budgetary savings and the goal of protecting public safety. Our alternative essentially builds upon the Governor’s proposals by modifying the direct discharge proposal and replacing it with earned discharge from parole.

Realigning Certain Criminal Justice Programs. The Governor’s budget proposes to shift some funding for some criminal justice programs from the state to the local level. We recommend that the Legislature expand upon this concept, and implement a policy–driven realignment of nearly $1.4 billion of state responsibilities to counties for juvenile offenders and adults convicted of drug possession crimes.

Creating Greater Efficiencies in Court Operations. We present two proposals that would result in greater efficiencies in the operations of trial courts, as well as help address the state’s massive General Fund shortfall. First, we recommend that the Legislature direct the trial courts to implement electronic court reporting in California courtrooms. We estimate that this change could save the state $14 million in 2009–10, with the estimated savings possibly exceeding $100 million on an annual basis when fully implemented. Second, we recommend the Legislature consider utilizing competitive bidding for court security, which could save the state about $20 million in 2009–10 and in excess of $100 million annually within a few years.

Other Issues

Federal Receiver’s Prison Health Care Construction Program. The federal court–appointed Receiver in the Plata v. Schwarzenegger inmate medical care legal case is proposing a health care construction program totaling $8 billion, which is currently the subject of pending litigation. In this report, we identify several issues regarding the Receiver’s program that merit legislative consideration. For example, we note that the need for the 10,000 new health care beds proposed by the Receiver remains uncertain. In addition, the costs identified by the Receiver to operate the proposed new health care facilities would be significant—exceeding $1 billion annually upon full implementation.

Return to Judicial and Criminal Justice Table of Contents, 2009-10 Budget Analysis Series
Return to Full Table of Contents, 2009-10 Budget Analysis Series