Gov. Jerry Brown plans to ramp up spending on private prisons

The California governor announced key points of his proposed 2014-15 budget.

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown plans to increase California’s use of private prison cells and leases with local jails even if federal judges agree to give the state more time to meet crowding limits within its own lockups, his budget documents show.

Detailed expenditure records released after Brown announced the highlights of his proposed budget for 2014-15 show that the governor expects to increase the use of outside prison contracts. His plan sets aside nearly $500 million to pay for and administer prison contracts to take nearly 17,700 inmates, increases of $100 million and 4,700 prisoners over the current year.

A little more than half of those prisons are out of state. The rest are community correctional centers, which could be run by local governments or private prison operators.

The governor’s planning documents show that even with that increase in spending, California prisons would remain 3,000 inmates over what federal judges say they can safely hold and still provide adequate healthcare and psychiatric services. The documents do not show how Brown plans to address further growth of the state’s prison population.

Projections released by the corrections department show that by 2019 the state will have 26,000 more inmates than its prisons would be able to hold under federal crowding caps. That amount is equivalent to the population of seven of the state’s current prisons combined.


The state likely would have to rely on private prisons and other alternative placements to house those additional prisoners, a practice already in use.

The costs of the governor’s planned prison contracts vary, from $26,000-a-year to house a prisoner out of state, to $30,200 within California — far below the $62,400-a-year California will spend on those in its own prisons. However, contractors take only the healthiest inmates, leaving California with the costlier and higher-risk population.

Budget records show California employs one prison worker for every two inmates, while private prisons outside of the state have one worker for every 36 inmates.

Twitter: @paigestjohn