California has built 23 prisons since 1980. In the same period, the University of California system has opened one new campus. And although California's prison population has declined in recent years, the state's spending per prisoner has increased five times faster than its spending per K-12 student in the last two decades.
California has more than 130,000 prisoners,
a huge increase from the state's 1980 prison population of about
25,000. Prisons cost California taxpayers close to $10 billion, compared
with $604 million in 1980. While some say the additional spending is needed for rehabilitation services, they also note that the prisons are draining scarce funds from education and other key areas.
This week, Californians who hope to see the state scale down its
prison spending were dismayed to learn that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wants
to further expand the prison system,
spending an additional $700 million on prisons over the next two years.
Brown is trying to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison
overcrowding by the end of this year: Despite the 21 new prisons built
since 1980, construction hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the inmate
population, and California’s prison system is one of the most crowded in