In the past, the CDCR used CCFs to house low-level (minimum and medium security) prisoners in a dormitory-style environment at a cost-effective average daily rate of just under $56 per bed, or about $20,000 annually. By comparison, it now costs an average of around $49,000 a year to incarcerate a convicted felon in state prison.
Use of CCFs had helped the state address its prison overcrowding problem, which recently led the U.S. Supreme Court, in Plata v. Brown, to affirm a lower-court ruling requiring California to reduce its adult prison population from approximately 200 percent to 137.5 percent of design capacity. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.1].
The CDCR had contracted with as many as 13 public and private CCFs, which in 2008 housed up to 5,913 prisoners – roughly 3.5 percent of the state’s adult prison population at the time. Today the CDCR continues to contract with only the Golden State Modified CCF in Kern County. That facility houses 600 Level I and Level II adult male prisoners, less than 0.5 percent of California’s current prison population.
For the most part, prisoners formerly held in CCFs will now be housed in local county jails under a program known as the 2011 Public Safety Realignment Plan. Pursuant to the Realignment Plan, adopted by the state in response to the Plata ruling, CDCR facilities will be used only to house prisoners convicted of violent, serious and sexual offenses.
However, it is anticipated that county jail systems will not have the capacity to hold the tens of thousands of prisoners who will ultimately be “realigned.” Thus, it seems likely that some of the 5,300 CCF beds that were recently emptied will soon be filled again – this time with prisoners “realigned” into county jails – after the CCFs contract with county officials rather than the state.
The facilities would then house the same prisoners, just under a different designation.
Sources: CDCR press release (Dec. 7, 2011); www.cdcr.ca.gov
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