Will California Build More Prisons or Focus on Non-Custodial Measures?

April 7, 2023

California, like many states in the United States, has a long history of building and expanding its prison system. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement toward criminal justice reform and reducing the number of people incarcerated in the state. This has led to the question of whether California will continue to build more prisons in the future.

One of the main drivers of this movement toward criminal justice reform is the cost of incarceration. California has one of the largest prison systems in the country and it is also one of the most expensive. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state spends over $11 billion per year on its prison system. This has led to calls for more cost-effective alternatives to incarceration, such as rehabilitation programs and community-based supervision.

Another factor that has contributed to the push for criminal justice reform is the overcrowding of California’s prisons. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population, citing poor conditions and inadequate healthcare. Since then, the state has implemented a number of policies aimed at reducing the number of people in prison, such as early release programs and parole reforms.

In addition, California’s prison system has been criticized for its high recidivism rates. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, over 60% of people released from prison in the state are rearrested within three years. This has led to calls for more effective rehabilitation and reentry programs to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.

Given these factors, it is unlikely that California will continue to build more prisons in the future. Instead, the state is likely to focus on implementing policies and programs that reduce the number of people in prison and improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. This could include investing in alternatives to incarceration, such as rehabilitation and community-based supervision, as well as providing more effective rehabilitation and reentry programs for people who are released from prison.

However, it is worth noting that the decision to build or not to build more prisons is not only a matter of politics and public opinion but also a matter of law. California’s prison system is under federal court oversight and the court may order the state to build more prisons if it finds that the current prison population is overcrowded, which is a violation of the 8th amendment of the US Constitution.

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