Gov. Jerry Brown Ramping Up Private Prison Spending

jerry-brown-350Gov. 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.

paige st johnThe 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.

Paige St. John
Los Angeles Times

About Paige St. John

Paige St. John has been a working journalist for more than three decades, covering politics, the environment and natural disasters. She currently works in Sacramento, Calif., for the Los Angeles Times, covering the criminal justice system.


  1. Population count is hilarious, if the 3 judges only investigated! Inmates are being moved all over! Healthcare…ha visualize this, inmates to the left making wine, inmates to the right shooting up drugs, inmate in the middle sitting on bunk playing guitar when guard walks in, who gets in trouble??? No, the inmate playing guitar is told, he knows better than to play on bunk & if he does it again he will get wrote up!! Tax pay er s money hard at work!

  2. Left out Healthcare issue, guitar man is also on pap machine, wine makers are right next to him, he has to breathe that crap in everyday, every night. Again, guards are very aware of this the smell is so strong you can smell outside even. He has a very hard time breathing at night.