Five Key Facts on California’s Prison Overcrowding

Fact #1: California’s prison population more than doubled in 20 years, climbing from  66,785 in 1987 to 171,444 in 2007. The state’s 33 prisons now hold 140,000 inmates, which is nearly doubled the system’s maximum design capacity of 78,858. The severe prison overcrowding has led to chronic failures to meet the basic medical and mental health needs of inmates.

Mules Creek State Prison in California. PHOTO SOURCE: Supreme Court of the United States Brown vs. Plata

Fact #2: Today nearly 71.3% of parolees are returned to state prison compared to just 32.7% in 1981, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Returning parolees formed 37% of the state’s prison population in 2007.

Fact #3: Proposition 184, commonly known as the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, added more than 87,500 inmates to the state prison system between 1994 and 2004. By the end of 2004, felons sentenced under the Three Strikes Law amounted to 25% of California’s prison population.

Fact #4: In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of its design capacity within two years. As many as 46,000 state inmates will have to be transferred or released to comply with the court order. On June 30, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 109 as part of his “realignment” plan to transfer low-level offenders to local prison facilities while the state focuses on incarcerating serious, violent or sexual offenders.

Fact #5: California will spend $10.1 billion on corrections and rehabilitations, which is 11.75% of the total 2011-2012 state budget. With 140,000 inmates, each inmate will cost the state $72,142 this year. (The 2010 median annual household income in California is only $58,925, according to the Census Bureau.)

Learn More: