Transcript: Press conference Q&A on the updated 2012-13 California prison realignment budget

Transcript of press conference Q&A on the updated 2012-2013 prison realignment budget (April 23, 2012):

Question: “The increase in capacity – can you walk us through but as far as the – not to get too far down the ways but the 137% versus the 141% versus the 145%, how many actual inmates population are we talking about?”

Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: “So about 2,900 done on June 27th will be over. You know, obviously spread across 33 prisons you can do the math. It’s not very many per institution. Probably under 100 or so.”

Question: “So that’s the 141%?”

Matthew Cate: “Yes.”

Question: “And what’s 145%?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, 145% is a percentage that we think allows us to anticipate slow growth based on California’s growth in population so that we have a stable prison system over the period of time.”

Question: “I’m sorry. How many inmates does that?”

Matthew Cate: “So it’s about between 5,000 and 6,000 over the 137.5%.”

Question: “And that gets the next question. So why not keep Norco open, for instance? It looks like 3,800 inmates right there for instance…”

Matthew Cate: “Well, it’s because we’re not trying to do – corrections doesn’t live in a vacuum. California has needs in higher education. California has needs in K-12. There’s health and human services needs. We have folks that have been cut year after year after year after year. And so the prison system has to live within its means, and that means closing its least efficient prison. Our hope is by demonstrating to the courts that we’re handling our business well, that we can then generate the savings that comes from not operating every prison that we have.”

Question: “I understand that the court seemed amenable to you coming back to them and saying, ‘Look, that’s just this little bit.’ What’s your back-up plan if they say no?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, I kind of listed the parade of horrible, if you will, that are options to us.

“You know, we’re not going to lay out which back-up plan we would use at this time. We just know that building your way out is expensive, slow. We’ve tried it and it didn’t work very well. The out-of-state programs mean we’re paying for inmates twice because we have a standardized staffing package in California and now we’re paying $300 million for private corporations to handle those inmates out-of-state. That’s not terrific.

“You know, with the Public Safety Realignment, the local government has done an amazing job adjusting to and handling all these new responsibilities but to just ask them to handle more is very difficult.

“But again, we’re opened to all ideas but we just like this one the best.”

Question: “How does this change the budget proposal laid out in January by the Governor? Is this going to save more money than the Governor expected to save when he put out that proposal?”

Ana Matosantos, Director of the California Department of Finance: “It saves roughly the same amount of dollars as was included in the Governor’s budget. This is just the implementation plan. Then the cancellation of the $4.1 billion in bond authority is a new addition. And as Matt mentioned, there is some building to replace existing facilities and accommodate out-of-state inmates and that is a new element of the proposal.

“In the aggregate, it’s greater savings because we’re canceling the AB 900 authority and we have an implementation plan to achieve the savings that were laid out in the budget.”

Question: “So as far as moving the needle in closing the budget gap, this doesn’t move that at all…?”

Ana Matosantos: “It saves $1 billion in this year and that was included in the Governor’s budget. This is the implementation plan to achieve it.”

Question: “How many employees will be cut as a result of this plan?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, it’ll be thousands. We’re continuing to see – at corrections, we’re such a large agency – obviously, the largest employer in California in state government. We have between 75 and 100 employees retire every month. And so as that attrition continues month after month, it will still be, as you look back from where we were, over 5,000 that will have reduced in the overall employees. It could be even more. Do you have the final numbers, Ana? We’ll get you the exact numbers.”

Ana Matosantos: “6,400”

Question: “Is that 6,400 employees that could be laid off as part of this?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, again, 100 a month approximately will have attride out. And this is a plan that as our population continues to go down, it still takes a couple of years. So that’s why the budget savings this year is $1 billion and it grows to $1.5 billion. It’s over a period of time.

“But we’re noticing employees. In fact, I met with the California Correctional and Peace Officers on Saturday to talk about layoffs. There will be another round of layoffs that start in May, and that again not only includes our peace officers but also our non-sworn staff. It will be another significant round of layoffs unfortunately. So we’re trying to work closely with our employees to mitigate the impact on people if we can.”

Question: “These are the 6,400 people – uniformed and civilians – that work in Norco?”

Matthew Cate: “No, no, I’m sorry. That’s the total number that’s coming down. Norco has in the neighborhood of – let’s see – it’s got 2,490 available beds and we overcrowd that to – the number goes up to 4,000 plus.”

Question: “I’m sorry. I mean how many employees are at Norco?”

Matthew Cate: “I don’t know off the top of my head. Probably 1,000 – 1,200.”

Question: “Is this document in response to any outside reports out there or is it a more internal planning document for the department and when do you file asking the court to increase the cap?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, we’re going to wait to file until we feel like we can make our best case. And so we want to get this plan through.

“Obviously the legislature has an incredibly important role. It’s ultimately they’re the ones who will pass the necessary laws and set the budget for us.

“And then we have a lot of implementation work to do over the next 6 to 9 months.

“We don’t want to put the court in a bind where we ask for this so late in the game that we’re at the last deadline either. So it’ll have to be sometime late this year, early next year would be best estimates. Maybe as late as the spring of next year when we go to the court.

“We have filings due, as you know, every month and in every case. So we needed to come forward with a plan that we think the courts will see as reasonable.

“We’ve been communicating with the receiver, with the special master, with the court experts so that no one’s surprised about the direction we’re going but obviously, they want to see the plan too before they can go to their judges and make recommendations.”

Question: “So I mean is this plan then just put out there publicly or is it a report to the legislature?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, it’s our budget document as well as our implementation plan.”

Question: “How much approval do you think you’re going to need from the legislature to get this stuff done? I mean on staffing levels, on AB 900. What are you going to need on lawmakers to vote on?”

Ana Matosantos: “The budget will reflect the savings associated with the proposals so the legislature will consider the downsizing plan.

“Then there’s a handful of specific projects. There’s replacement beds that meet some of the court needs that provide capacity with the closure of the Norco institutions. So those projects will be going before the legislature as well as the health care improvement plan that is another element that we have to do to meet the court requirements.

“So basically the CDCR budget will be before the legislature as part of the May revision. And then the facility changes, including the elimination of the $4.1 billion in bond authority in AB 900 that will be part of the legislative package as well.”

Question: “Okay, so the $4.1 billion reduction – that will have to be voted by the legislature?”

Ana Matosantos: “Yes.”

Question: “This is going to be inserted into the May revise…”

Ana Matosantos: “This is essentially the May revision for CDCR.”

Question: “I’m sorry, what else will have to be voted on?”

Ana Matosantos: “There’s facility. There’s a handful of infill projects associated with court needs and providing the sufficient capacity and those projects will need to be voted on by the legislature. And then the improvement plan for health care – that’s another facility need that’s court-required – is also going to go before the legislature.”

Question: “…Then that plan’s not completed yet.”

Ana Matosantos: “The scope of the project will be set forward and the plan has been re-scoped to reflect the smaller population under realignment.”

Question: “This is all predicated on realignment going forward and working. I wonder if you could – with a little over half a year since this has gone into effect – talk about the pros and the cons of what you feel has worked and what you feel has not worked and you need to work on?”

Matthew Cate: “The biggest thing that worked is we haven’t released 30,000 inmates onto the streets. You know, that’s been the biggest thing. We were facing a massive prison release order if we didn’t act.

“Secondly, you know, we predicted that local law enforcement would do a good job. They have exceeded our expectations. They’ve done an amazing job here. These local community partnerships now have plans in their communities. They’re utilizing the funding appropriately. And so I think that we’re seeing public safety gains in many parts of California.

“The hard part? You know, obviously probation now has a much bigger responsibility. They have to staff up. The sheriffs are working on capacity issues. They have a part of AB 900 that we haven’t decreased at all –  that we’re building jails for them. There’s street enforcement issues. So everyone is doing their part. It’s a strain across-the-board. You know, it’s a new program but thus far we’re – we have to get secure source of funding for law enforcement. So those things have to be done. But the job that those folks have done, the job the courts have done, the folks in the community-based organizations providing rehabilitation have done a great job and I think that’s the highlight.”

Question: “Is this going to require canceling a lot of private contracts? And also, is this going to reduce California’s reliance on private vendors?”

Matthew Cate: “Well, taking the last question, yes of course. I mean, we’re going to have a – the civil service act, of course, stresses focus on California jobs being done by civil servants but this will reduce that – the reliance on those. It’ll take place over time and we’ll work with the private vendors to make sure we have a smooth transition. They did a good job. They’ve been a good partner but it’s time for us to move into another phase.”

Question: “And are you going to have capacity to take this in at the state level?”

Matthew Cate: “We will. And if you look, again, at that chart that’s in the back of the document, it lays out – shows you – when various beds come up and down. And because we’re doing it over time, that’s why we need the courts. It’s one of the reasons we’d like to get 145%. Thank you.”

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2 Comments on “Transcript: Press conference Q&A on the updated 2012-13 California prison realignment budget

  1. Pingback: Transcript: CA Dept. of Finance Director Ana Matosantos on the updated 2012-13 prison realignment budget | What The Folly?!

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