Accomodating the Increasing Inmate Population
In August 1994, the California Department of Corrections released its annual five-year facilities master plan for new prison construction. This plan, usually submitted to the Legislature earlier in the calendar year, was delayed so that the additional need for new prison beds resulting from the recently enacted Three Strikes and You're Out legislation could be incorporated into the plan. The facilities plan is based on the department's spring 1994 population estimate that estimated a total of 246,000 inmates by June 1999. This projection was recently revised to 211,000, 35,000 fewer inmates. There are several reasons for this reduction, as shown in Figure 1 and discussed below.…show more content…
This equals the increase that the state prison system incurred over the past ten years. The state's prisons, however, fall far short of having space to accommodate this projected growth in inmate population.
New Prison Needs
The state's existing prisons were designed to house 66,000 inmates (one inmate per prison cell). As of September 1994, however, the prisons housed 120,000 inmates, resulting in an average overcrowding level of 182 percent. (Another 5,000 inmates are housed in community correctional centers that are operated by either private organizations, cities, or counties.) Additional prisons designed to house 14,000 inmates have been funded and are either under construction or ready for occupancy. When these new prisons are completed (around 1998) the design capacity of the state's prisons will total 80,000.
Figure 2 shows recent and projected overcrowding levels in the state prison system based on the scheduled completion of all authorized prisons. As shown in the figure, prison overcrowding increased from about 140 percent in June 1983 to around 180 percent in June 1990 and has remained fairly close to that level over the last four years as additional prisons have been opened. Based on the CDC's fall 1994 population projections, unless more prisons are built, overcrowding in the prisons will increase significantly over the next five years and will reach 256 percent in mid-1999 nearly three inmates for each space designed to