Gov. Jerry Brown seeks new prison beds in California

Gov. Jerry Brown is pursuing a prison contract in California, too small to meet federal orders to reduce crowding, but enough to help Brown end the shipment of inmates to for-profit prisons out of state.

According to bid documents, California offers to pay no more than $63 a day, on top of facility costs, to house up to 1,225 additional inmates in what the state calls “modified community” prisons. California currently has 600 inmates in one such private prison, paying more than $13 million a year to the GEO Group Inc.

Bids for the new facilities are due May 28.

At one point, California housed more than 5,600 inmates in 13 small “community” prisons built for state prisoners by local governments or by private prison operators. The state by 2012 had ended all but one of those contracts, citing the cost and saying most nonviolent felons who were eligible for the community prisons now serve their time in county jails.


Most of the facilities, concentrated in Kern County, are now empty. Eight are privately owned, including six owned by the GEO Group.

Predictably, California’s prison union is not pleased with the potential expansion of private prisons that do not employ union guards. They “are really, really run poorly,” said Joe Baumann, a chapter president with the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn.

State corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said there is no “target population” for the new contract, but the timing coincides with California’s plan to begin this summer returning the first of 8,400 inmates now housed in private prisons run by Corrections Corp. of America.

The private prison shuffle does little to solve Brown’s larger problem of overcrowding within the state’s own 33 prisons. Under threat of a contempt order, Brown is required by Thursday to provide a plan for reducing crowding.