Capitol Alert

California ends its last out-of-state private prison contract

How prison officials see changes implemented to overcome crowded facilities

In a California Department of Corrections video, prison officials talk about changes in the crowded system.
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In a California Department of Corrections video, prison officials talk about changes in the crowded system.

California has ended its reliance on out-of-state private prisons, the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced on Tuesday.

Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the department, said the final 33 inmates were transferred out of a private prison in Arizona, after hundreds more were redirected to California facilities during the last several months.

At its peak, the La Palma Correctional Facility housed 3,100 inmates who were sentences for crimes in California, Waters said. California at one point had contracts with five other out-of-state detention centers.

The La Palma site is managed by CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based company that oversees private detention facilities for state and federal agencies. California does not plan to renew the contract, officials from the corrections department said.

California corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz called the use of out-of-state prisons a “temporary solution” to substantial overcrowding issues in the mid-2000s.

“Due to meaningful prison reforms, we have been able to bring our inmates back to California and closer to their families,” Diaz said in a news release.

Following complaints of overcrowding, a special panel of three federal judges ordered California to reduce the inmate population to within 137.5 percent of the state’s total design capacity. In a 5-4 decision in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the court-mandated population limit.

California’s total inmate population now stands about 125,000 — 135 percent of design capacity. In 2006, at the peak of overcrowding, California had 173,479 prison inmates.

During his inaugural address, Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to “continue the fight against over-incarceration and over-crowding in our prisons” and “end the outrage of private prisons once and for all.”

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.

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