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Prop. 120: Yes on Prison Bonds

The number of felons in our prisons has nearly quadrupled in a single decade. Ten years ago, the state prison census totaled 24,569 inmates. Today, the penal population hovers at 91,984 men and women. The surge in inmates has been fueled by demanding voters, tough judges and even tougher laws. Clearly, the state needs more prisons to reduce chronic overcrowding and to accommodate the continuing increase.

Proposition 120 on the June 5 ballot would authorize $450 million in state bonds to build more adult prisons and expand youth facilities.

Some voters ask why yet another prison bond measure is needed. The state has comm-itted since 1981 more than $3 billion --largely funded through general obligation bonds--to increase the capacity of overburdened prisons. In spite of a major expansion, the prison system has not kept pace with the rate of increase in the prison population.

At most prisons, inmates are forced to double up in cells intended for one man. They also sleep in converted recreation rooms, classrooms and chapels. The overcrowding leaves little or no room for exercise, learning or any semblance of rehabilitation.

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The bond measure will allow the state to make room for 106,000 inmates over the next five years. The expansion will reduce overcrowding, but it will not cure it, if, as experts predict, the prison population mushrooms to 145,000 inmates by 1995.

Proposition 120 is a measure born of desperation. As the prison population multiplies, the state must invest in additional alternatives to incarceration. In the meantime, the state must provide decent prisons. Vote Yes on June 5.PRISON INMATES

In the past decade, there has been a huge increase in the number of felons in California state prisons.

1980 24,569

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May 1990 91,984

Source: California Senate Office of Research


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