Transcript: CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate on the updated 2012-13 prison realignment budget

Transcript of remarks by Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, on the updated 2012-2013 prison realignment implementation plan (April 23, 2012):

Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. SOURCE: cdcr.ca.gov

“Many of you – most of you – remember that on October 1, 2011, Public Safety Realignment was implemented. The focus of AB 109 has been largely the realignment in communities and our partners in law enforcement and community rehabilitation, the court have done a great job with that. But the other half of Public Safety Realignment relates to prisons and prison operations.

“As you may recall, the governor has expressed his goals for this administration to safely address overcrowding in prisons, avoid massive early release as a result of the Supreme Court orders, to reverse the trend of ever-growing corrections spending, to improve prisons in order to end federal court oversight especially in the health care areas, and to decrease recidivism and thereby increasing public safety. This plan, if enacted and implemented, will accomplish those goals. It’s a massive change.

“And so working with the Governor and Ana Matosantos, we decided that we needed to give stakeholders as much time as possible to read and to understand the plan, to be able to ask questions about it, to have discussions. Normally, all changes to the Governor’s January budget happen in the May revision, but in this special occasion, the Department of Finance and the Department of Corrections as well as the administration has worked together to produce what amounts to an April revision to the Governor’s budget. And this is what we’re going to be talking about today: “The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars in Federal Court Oversight and Improve the Prison System”.

“So we’ll be talking today about the budget reduction of about $1 billion in the next budget year and ultimately a reduction of $1.5 billion to corrections spending. We’ll be talking about construction. We’ll be talking about changes to operations, the out-of-state program, the closure of a prison.

“But first, I want to talk about a couple of changes within the department’s operations plan, which will have an impact on everything else we’ll do.

“The first is when AB 109 went into effect, we knew that there would be a reduction in prison population. So far since Oct. 1, the prison population has been reduced by 22,000 inmates. It’s a massive change to our system.

“Left to itself we would have under-crowded, low-level facilities because those are the offenders who have been realigned and overcrowded high-level facilities.

“So at the very advent of the discussions of realignment, we began a study of our classification system. We’ve engaged the nation’s top experts in the field, seasoned corrections professionals, and here’s what we’ve found: We’ve been over-classifying inmates and having them in higher security levels than were necessary. Now, that was because of overcrowding. It makes everything we do more difficult, including providing safety and security.

“So we think we’ll be able to shift upwards of 17,000 inmates from higher level securities – like Level 4 prisons down to Level 3, 3 to 2, and 2 to 1. Overall, 17,000 inmates impacted. The benefits of that is that you have even crowding across the prison system. You have safer operations.

“But it also has some concerns. Obviously, we have to make sure our employees are safe. We have to make sure that the inmates are safe. And so that also led us to look at our staffing plan with the departments.

“What we’ve found is as a result of massive overcrowding across the years, the prison staffing packages have been relying on those overcrowded inmates for resources and have built uneven prison packages, which has created inefficiencies and disparities. And so we’ve started over. We’ve taken each prison position-by-position and recreated them – again with the help of the Department of Finance – and what we’ve found is that we’re going to be able to run the prisons cheaper. We’ll be able to save funds and also provide inmates to access to programs because they’ll be able to have the staff there to make sure things are running safely. And again, we should see a better-running prison, which will help us get out of these federal court lawsuits.

“The other thing it does is by establishing a new baseline for prison staffing, it allows us to add inmates or reduce inmates without significant additional costs. Because now you have a standardized staffing package as opposed to one only based on overcrowding.

“Well, the first thing we want to do with that is we’re planning on getting the inmates home from out-of-state. Currently, we have 9,500 inmates in prisons in Mississippi and Oklahoma and Arizona at a cost to Californian taxpayers of over $300 million. Over the course of the next 4 years, we plan to bring those inmates back to California, creating jobs here, letting the inmates be closer to their families, which is important for rehabilitation and saving dollars.

“Next, I want to talk briefly about rehabilitation. If I’m candid in this room, I would tell you that rehabilitation has been my deepest disappointment as Secretary of Corrections for the last 4 years. We have seen massive reductions in rehabilitation spending and massive reductions in programs. Currently, we have approximately only 1,500 substance abuse slots in all of California’s prisons. It’s unacceptable to the Governor; it’s unacceptable to me. And so, with this program, we will be able to make a small reinvestment for the first time in our rehabilitative programs.

“We should see very shortly 70% of our inmates receiving care according to their crimogenic needs. We’re now assessing every inmate on the way in, and we should – before they leave prison – reach 70%. Right now, we’re lucky if we reach 15%.

“We also know that if there’s any magic bullet for rehabilitation and for reductions in recidivism, it’s ensuring there’s aftercare. We have very little aftercare now. Public Safety Realignment has reduced the population, a small investment now will allow us to get to 70% of these inmates in aftercare. We should see a significant drop in our recidivism; upwards of 20% has been found by experts as a result of these kind of programs, which should ultimately decrease spending even more in the prisons. We’ll also see reduced violence, better health overall and, most importantly, decreased recidivism.

“Important to the governor – important to me – is the ending of the federal court oversight. As you know, as Attorney General/Governor Brown was passionate on this issue. He points to the inefficiencies that come from having multiple masters, multiple experts giving multiple orders. And so we’ll start with Plata – the health care case, the medical case; Coleman – the mental health case; and Perez – the dental case.

“As most of you know, the court in the Plata case – Judge Henderson – said that the end of the receivership is near. This plan gets us across the goal line. We have seen the Inspector General’s scores for medical care go up dramatically over the last year to nearing 80%. We know the receiver has filled over 90% of his clinical positions and that the prison physicians are now all board certified.

“In Coleman, it’s only about 18 months ago that we had 1,000 inmates who were in mental health crisis who did not have a bed available for treatment, who sat in their cells in mental health crisis. It was unacceptable. Those numbers have continued to decline thanks to realignment and in the very short future – in the matter of the next few months – those wait lists will all be at zero. We still need some work to do on Coleman. I’ll talk about that.

“In Perez, I see Dr. Toche in the back who is our director of our dental program. We now have 30 of the 33 prisons have been through the Perez audits and have passed. We’ll complete all 33 prisons by the end of this fiscal year.

“It’s our goal to get out of all of our health care-related court oversight by the end of 2013. Now those are big plans and there’s still much to do.

“We have to complete the California Health Care Facility in Stockton. We need to convert the former DJJ facility – the DeWitt facility – and turn it into a step-down – an annex – to the health care facility. That construction needs to be done. That way inmates as they progress along the continuum towards health have a step-down program without having to go back to the prisons or if they take a turn for the worse can go back to the hospital.

“We need to follow through on our commitment to address some remaining health care infrastructure needs of our prisons. That means constructing the necessary treatment space, clinical space, handwashing stations. That work needs to be accomplished. And this plan will layout all of that construction.

“And we need to follow through on the receivers’ turnaround plans and meet the Coleman court’s staffing mandates and complete the final Perez audits and build the treatment space. But if we do this, we’ll be out of these cases after 20-25 years of oversight.

“This plan will allow us to cancel 3,900 beds and save $630 million in construction costs and $125 million in operational costs that we were planning to spend before realignment in order to meet these mandates.

“Construction – we plan to close the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. We’ve been in contact with our employees there this morning. This is also something we proposed to do at the 4-year mark. But it’s the least efficient, most expensive, one of our least safe, oldest prisons, and it’s appropriate at this time to begin to think about moving out of those facilities that are so expensive to run.

“We’ve already announced we plan to convert the Valley State Prison for Women to a male facility and the building of the DeWitt annex. We’re going to cancel all re-entry construction. We’ll be using existing prisons as re-entry houses. We plan to add specialized housing to existing prisons to meet the requirements of Armstrong court – that’s the ADA case; we need ADA accessible beds. We need specialized beds for mental health care; and we’d like some beds associated with substance abuse. These will be beds flexible enough to handle any of those populations.

“All told, compared to AB 900, which is a $6 billion program, we’ll be eliminating $4.1 billion from that program in construction savings and canceled construction projects, and we’ll be saving $7.7 billion in debt service.

“So the last issue that I want to talk about today was our population density.

“In this plan, in this blueprint, there’s a multi-colored chart. That multi-colored chart lays out our population projections. It will show that currently we are in the neighborhood of 120,000 – 123,000 in that range. We’ll be by June 30 about 4,000 inmates under the court-ordered mandate.

“The next benchmark is in December of this year and we project to be about 1,500 inmates under that court mandate.

“The final benchmark – the 137.5% of design capacity benchmark – comes due June 27 of 2013. If nothing else changes, our current projection shows we’ll be at 141% of design capacity at that time. So that puts us over.

“So what do you do? Our plan is to demonstrate through everything I’ve just described the state’s competence and commitment to handle our inmate population and our inmate patients with all due care and that we can meet constitutional standards at 145% of design capacity.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that time and experience may reveal that we can provide constitutional care at a higher density level and has suggested that we move the three-judge panel for modification if that is the case. We plan to do just that.

“The other options would include inmate release, more construction, expanded out-of-state programs, and etcetera. We don’t think any of these are good options for the people of California.

“For example, if you wanted to build your way out of the problem, you would have to build 9 prisons at $7.5 billion with $550 million of debt service and $1.6 billion of operational costs. We think that that’s not the best or appropriate way to handle the matter. So we’ll be moving forward over the course of the next 6 to 9 months to demonstrate fully our competence to handle these matters and then respectfully move the court to advance our MC levels up to 145%.”

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Learn More:

California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation: Video of the April 23, 2012 press conference announcing California’s updated prison reform and public safety realignment plan

California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation: The Future of California Corrections: A Blueprint to Save Billions of Dollars, End Federal Oversight, and Improve the Prison System (PDF)