The problem in California is that the state has been spending too much. Though the states’ income has been going up every year, the rate of spending has shot up than the income. This was admitted by state senator Dick Ackerman. The voters in this state staged a coup and recalled the then sitting Senator Gray Davis who had inherited a surplus budget but through overspending the state began to have massive deficits. As a result Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected.
Though Schwarzenegger proposed some several propositions to limit spending and control the budget, some politicians, bureaucrats and unions shot down the measures. This was because these people were afraid of losing the public coffers from where they feed. In fact since then, the general fund spending has shot up by 44% and California is now spending between $400 million - $600 million more than it collects each month.
The budget crisis in California has made the state to address the perennial problem of prison overcrowding. Because the prisons, like the Lancaster in Calif, have become a major drag on the sate’s financial crisis, the state wants to reduce overcrowding by chipping away 70% recidivism rate of the inmates. This is because the prisons alone (the state has 33 prisons and in total there are 167,000 prisoners in California) takes about 11% of the state’s budget (about $8 billion). The state prison houses about 4,600 inmates who are twice the number intended and the new effort here now is to remove from the prisons the inmates who are considered as being less threatening and categorize them into two ; those who pose little or no risk and those who will need constant supervision. The aim of this is to reduce the inmate’s number by next year to 6,500.
But now there are public safety concerns about the idea of releasing prisoners earlier and parole. Several hundreds of prisoners released by the Attorney General Jerry Brown after clarifying the law but not long before one inmate who was released on probation was re-arrested after his release and then charged for attempted rape. This case made several lawmakers to call against early releases. Some law enforcement groups have also been calling the tracking of low-level offenders as they may commit several crimes before being re-arrested.
Proponents who include Mr. Schwarzenegger’s correction secretary, Matthew Cate, has stood by the law and calls it overdue and unnecessary. The new changes suggest that the state could save about $100 million this year alone. Also, the guards’ union says that now it supports the idea of prison alternatives and they did not object the new law. Union officials says that overcrowding poses physical threats to its members and the union now says reductions of up to 40,000 is possible in the next two years.
Though this reduction has progressed in the last recent months, state senator, Mark Leno, suggests that further reductions are not possible. He said that many lawmakers want long sentences and spend a lot of time on incarceration.