Friday, April 5, 2013

... and California's Deficit Comes Right Back.

From the New York Times: "A federal judge on Friday rejected California’s motion to regain control of mental health care in its prisons, ruling that the quality of care failed to meet standards required by the Constitution."

This suggests a significant defeat is in the offing for the Brown administration, because the State budget will now likely be thrown back into a deficit position due to the $1.9 billion in costs associated with housing prisoners out-of-state; while the decision today concerned the mental health system, it is expected exactly the same rationale will apply to the overcrowding decision.

"What Crimes did Prisoners Commit?"
Criminal Justice and Judiciary FAQ
California Legislative Analyst
This is not the first time I've blogged about this. Prison overcrowding is the enduring wild card in the State budget on the spending side, especially now with the emergence of Obamacare.

Perhaps one of the ironies of the whole situation is that California (particularly its voters) is working rather hard to decriminalize marijuana. According to the State's Legislative Analyst's Office, approximately 31 percent of inmates in California’s prisons were incarcerated for a drug-related crime. I don't think decriminalization of possession would make the difference-- there are about 1,500 prisoners at the State level for possession -- but I suspect the real change would be caused by the legitimization of formerly criminal enterprises -- there would be less need for violent "self help."

But Federal law continues to block that legalization, while at the same time the Federal Government is criticizing the State for failing to build enough prisons to reduce the overcrowding that is at least partially created by the very policy the voters of the State have rejected.