In August 1994, the California Department of Corrections released its annual five-year facilities master plan for new prison construction. This plan, usually submitted to the Legislature earlier in the calendar year, was delayed so that the additional need for new prison beds resulting from the recently enacted Three Strikes and You're Out legislation could be incorporated into the plan. The facilities plan is based on the department's spring 1994 population estimate that estimated a total of 246,000 inmates by June 1999. This projection was recently revised to 211,000, 35,000 fewer inmates. There are several reasons for this reduction, as shown in Figure 1 and discussed below.
First, there have recently been fewer new admissions into the prison system than was projected in the spring 1994 estimate. The CDC now projects that total new admissions will still grow continuing a long-term trend but not as much as previously estimated. This affects the projections both for the base population (inmates and prison terms that would occur without the Three Strikes law) and for those inmates sent to prison under the Three Strikes law. The CDC assumes that there have been fewer Three Strikes admissions than previously anticipated in part because of the large backlog of Three Strikes cases awaiting adjudication.
Second, the CDC has lowered its projection of felons that, because of Three Strikes, would be sent to state prison instead of being sentenced to local jails or put on probation.
Third, the CDC incorporated the Three Strikes law into the computer model that is used for biannual projections for inmate population. The previous Three Strikes estimate was based on a simplified...
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...e. For example, in the 1980s when the state enjoyed relatively strong economic growth General Fund revenues increased by an average of 8 percent per year. It is therefore likely that operating the state's prison system will require an increasing portion of state revenues.
With the enactment of the Three Strikes legislation, the state is expected to incur unprecedented growth in its prison population. If the state is to accommodate this growth, several billion dollars of state funding will be needed to finance the construction and operation of additional prisons. There are essentially no funds currently available to build new prisons. Federal grants for prison construction should provide some assistance over the next few years, but the state's costs for expanding and operating its prison system will require an increasing share of the state's budget.
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