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Why Thousands of California Felons May Soon Get Their Voting Rights Restored

State prison inmates in Chino by Kevork Djansezian/Getty

California inmates in a Chino prison (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

You can’t vote in California if you’re serving time in state prison or released on parole.

But you can vote if you’re doing time in county jail for a misdemeanor or released on probation.

[RELATED: Interactive map of felon voting laws by state]

Simple enough, right?

Not really. Continue reading

California’s 33 State Prisons (and the people inside them): An Interactive Map

As of August 15, 2012, California’s 33 prisons (30 for men, 3 for women) held about 120,000 inmates. That’s a lot of people behind bars, for sure, but it’s also a pretty significant drop from the year before, when there were roughly 27,000 more prisoners in the system. Today, most of the state’s prisons still remain overcrowded – about 150 percent above intended capacity – but progress has undoubtedly been made in thinning out the ranks. California no longer has the largest prison system in the country (things really are bigger in Texas). And it can almost entirely be attributed to the state’s public safety realignment program, which was put into effect last October with the goal of reducing the inmate population by about 33,000 within two years.

Mouse over the map below for information about each prison in California’s system, the current number of inmates, the change in population since realignment began, and each facility’s intended design capacity. Note that marker size is relative to the current inmate population in each prison. (It may be necessary to adjust the map zoom in to see specific details.)
Data source: California Department of Corrections

Realignment Explained

Last October California began a dramatic overhaul of its severely overcrowded prison system. Assembly Bill 109 – known as realignment – had the objective of shedding more than 30,000 inmates from in-state prisons and significantly cutting the prison budget. At the time the law took effect, there were more than 143,000 inmates behind bars in California’s 33 prisons. That’s almost twice the system’s design capacity. Meanwhile, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation received about $10 billion a year from the state’s thinning general fund – over 11 percent of last year’s entire spending plan, more than was spent on the University of California and California State University systems combined. Continue reading

How One Law Helped Pack California’s Prisons

A single state law from the 1970s completely transformed the way California sentences its criminals.

The Uniform Determinate Sentencing Law was signed in 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown (yes,  same guy). Shortly thereafter the prison population metastasized.

Here’s what happened:

Continue reading

Building the Empire: California’s Prison Building Bonanza

In 1950, California had four state prison facilities and about 11,500 prisoners. By 2006, at the peak of the state’s prison overcrowding, there were 33 prisons and more than 172,000 inmates! That’s an increase of more than 900 percent!

Since 1950: California’s Prison Building Boom

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Packing the House: The Back Story on California’s Prison Boom

California’s prisons are old, crumbling, and packed to the gills with inmates. The inmate population  exploded in the late 1980s and 90s. It rose almost 900 percent over three decades and reached an all-time high in 2006, with more than 172,000 inmates behind bars. During that same period, the state almost tripled the number of prison facilities: Continue reading