LAO Recommended Legislation
Enact legislation that takes a balanced approach to handling projected growth in the prison inmate population by (1) adding new prison capacity and (2) reducing the expected growth in the inmate population by expanding inmate and parole programs that reduce recidivism, releasing elderly inmates to home or community facility detention, and reforming the present sentencing system.
As of fall 1998, the Department of Corrections projected that the state's prison population would climb to almost 208,000 inmates by June 2004, resulting in a housing gap of about 27,000 beds to accommodate these inmates. The Legislature could bridge this housing gap by enacting legislation that is weighted almost equally between (1) adding new prison capacity and (2) reducing the expected inmate population growth as a result of policy changes that are cost-effective and minimize the risks to public safety.
Please see our policy brief Addressing the State's Long-Term Inmate Population Growth, May 1997.
Dan Carson: 445-4660 and Chuck Nicol: 322-8402
Privatize the Prison Industry Authority (PIA) as an independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Focus PIA on providing job training and other services aimed at preventing second-strike offenders from coming back to state prison with 25-years-to-life third-strike sentences. Also, enact other changes to restructure PIA management, improve fiscal accountability, do away with protected markets, establish clear rules for competition, allow for new private partnerships, and measure mission performance.
Following a number of years of poor financial performance, the PIA has improved, but the state continues to receive a poor return on its more than $91 million contribution in buildings and equipment for the program. The PIA's progress has been hampered by an ever-shifting and muddled mission, constraints on inmate productivity, governmental constraints such as the state's personnel system, and a weak internal governance structure.
Please see our policy brief Reforming the Prison Industry Authority, April 1996.
Dan Carson: 445-4660
Encourage additional court-ordered commitments of narcotic-addicted offenders to the Civil Addict Program by ensuring that offenders who are eligible for the program are identified by county probation officers in the officers' reports to the sentencing judges. In addition, restore the system of credits that was inadvertently eliminated for these offenders in prior legislation.
The Civil Addict Program has proven to be effective at reducing inmate recidivism due to substance abuse. Expansion of the program to include additional inmates with substance abuse problems would likely be a cost-effective strategy to reduce rising state incarceration costs.
Please see our 1998-99 Analysis, page D-76.
Dan Carson: 445-4660
Enact a new approach to reform the parole system, including
(1) restructuring parole supervision to focus on control of high-risk offenders, (2) additional sanctions for parole violators, including supervision fees and home detention with electronic monitoring, and (3) restoration of authority over sanctions to the Department of Corrections' parole division and individual parole agents.
A major contributor to the growth in the state's prison population is the large number of parolees being returned to prison for a parole violation. Our recommended reforms are designed to improve public safety, reduce prison overcrowding, and save the state money by breaking the cycle of parole failure and reincarceration.
Please see our 1998-99 Analysis, page D-11.
Dan Carson: 445-4660
Repeal 1994 legislation which established a program to transfer state prison inmates back to the foreign countries from which they originated.
The program has not been cost-effective. At considerable expense, the Department of Corrections has notified tens of thousands of inmates per year of their opportunity to apply to finish out their prison terms in their home countries. However, each year only a handful of offenders who apply have actually been transferred from state custody through the actions of the Board of Prison Terms.
Please see our 1997-98 Analysis, page D-110.
Dan Carson: 445-4660
Enact an excise tax on the retail sale of the precursor chemicals that are used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. Use the revenues generated from such a tax (probably in the millions of dollars annually) to defray the state's costs for enforcement and cleanup of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.
The illegal manufacture of methamphetamine has become a serious problem in California in recent years, costing the state millions of dollars for the enforcement of drug laws and clean-up of clandestine laboratories. Although most legitimate users of chemicals purchase the chemicals at the wholesale level, much of the precursor chemicals used in illegal manufacturing are sold at the retail level. Thus, a tax on retail sale would not affect most legitimate users. Also, retail sellers must already register with the state, so the tax collection process would be relatively easy.
Please see our 1996-97 Analysis, page D-142.
Craig Cornett or Tracy Kenny: 445-4660
Designate Department of Justice (DOJ) as the lead agency for all interactions with foreign governments related to the prosecution of persons committing crimes in California who have fled to their home countries.
Require local law enforcement agencies to pay for the costs of services provided by the DOJ's crime laboratories.
Require counties to reimburse the state for legal work performed by DOJ on behalf of district attorneys who are disqualified from handling local cases due to conflicts of interest.
Designating DOJ as lead agency for all foreign prosecutions would enhance law enforcement coordination efforts between foreign governments and California. Requiring local governments to pay for crime lab services and prosecution in conflict of interest cases would properly align local government's funding and programmatic responsibilities for investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.
Foreign prosecution: Please see our 1997-98
D-179. Reimbursement for crime lab services: Please see our 1997-98 Analysis, page D-174. Reimbursement for legal work in conflict of interest cases: Please see our 1988-89 Analysis, page 53.
Craig Cornett, Alex MacBain, or Tracy Kenny: 445-4660
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