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State's Private Prisons Face Closure Over Costs

April 05, 2002

Your April 2 editorial, "Prison Guard Clout Endures," suggested that the state's plan to close five privately run prisons was some kind of political deal made with the correctional officers' union.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

The experience in California and other states with contract prisons is that they are not cost-effective. We anticipate the state will save $5.1 million annually when the contracts expire on June 30. All of California's contract prisons were designed for minimum-security inmates, and the state has a surplus of minimum-security prison beds. Proposition 36, the drug diversion initiative, is projected to reduce California's minimum-security population by some 5,000 inmates in the next few years.

In addition, contract prisons have been an administrative problem. Although some have been well managed, others have employed poorly trained staffs and have failed to provide programs for inmates that are mandated by state law.

Last November, all state agencies were asked to develop recommendations for reducing budgets in response to the recession and declining revenues. Closing the five contract prisons was one of our agency's recommendations. The contract prisons are not suitable for maximum-security prisoners, who comprise the fastest-growing segment of our inmate population. We have proposed establishing a new maximum-security prison in Delano to house those prisoners. Your editorial referred to building "new public prisons at $500 million a pop." The cost of building the Delano facility is projected at $335 million.

Stephen Green

Assistant Secretary

Legislation/External Affairs

California Youth & Adult Correctional Agency, Sacramento

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