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Monday, Jan 23, 2006, 12:03 pm

Prison spending in CA to top $8 billion in 2006

By Silja J.A. Talvi
The Governator's innovative new plan for California's gigantic prison population is apparently to ensure that it just keeps expanding--and, for the first time, flowing in a significant way into the pockets of private prison operators like GEO (formerly Wackenhut). Until now, the all-powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association has kept private prison companies to a minimum in California, largely ensured through extravagant contributions to campaign races for Dems and Republicans alike.

But that's about to change.

Outlined in the Governor's current spending proposal for 2006-2007 is request for authorization "to pursue authority to secure additional inmate capacity through contracts with other providers." According to the proposal, the number of private prison beds in California would be nearly doubled, from roughly 8,500 today to at least 17,000 by 2007.

On the wish list as well: a $12 billion, 10-year, bond-funded jail and prison construction proposal for 83,000 new inmates.

Never mind that crime rates aren't going up. Never mind that prison spending already far exceeds the state money spent on public higher education. Never mind that two-thirds of inmates (most of whom are people of color) actually end up back in jail or prison within a few years (even months) of their release. Never mind that California's adult and juvenile prison system is already known as one of the most corrupt, brutal, race-stratified, and poorly managed in the entire nation. As long as the money keeps flowin' ...

Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.

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