During his January 6 State of the State address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a constitutional amendment to ensure prison funding never exceeds higher education funding.
Acknowledging that this budget year will pose many challenges, the Governor called for a historic realignment of California’s priorities.
The Governor called on the Legislature to help make California’s education system a higher priority than prisons as well as asking CDCR to continue to look for ways to cut operating costs.
“Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy. I will submit to you a constitutional amendment so that never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in his final State of the State address.
Specifically, the Governor gave the following directives to CDCR.
He directed CDCR to continue to reduce costs at every possible opportunity and to seek opportunities to foster a competitive market around housing and treating inmates in the safest and most economically feasible way.
As an example, a mixture of private and public health care practitioners could provide appropriate health care to inmates at a greatly reduced cost from existing expenditures.
The Governor noted that much of the current inmate health care costs are driven by federal courts who have implemented the most expensive health care system for inmates in the nation. California is spending about three times more than any other state on health care for inmates.
Other states, including Pennsylvania and Indiana, have demonstrated success in using a mix of private and public employees to control and even reduce costs. The Governor directed CDCR to look to them as a model.
The Governor urged CDCR to determine if private prisons can be utilized to oversee lower level, less dangerous inmates at a reduced cost.
“We believe that our officers are the best trained and most dedicated officers in the nation in operating safe and secure institutions,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “We will need them to focus on inmates who are the most violent and dangerous to society. Their skills are needed to oversee high security inmates, inmates on death row, violent inmates, inmates at reception centers, and supervise individuals on parole. “
CDCR currently has private institutions supervising lower level inmates in state, while out of state, CDCR has found private prisons available to house more serious offenders, Secretary Cate said. This will also allow CDCR to return those inmates currently housed out of state and provide needed jobs in