A year after California lawmakers authorized more than $7 billion of lease-revenue bonds to add prison beds, five Senate Democrats criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for failing to implement the plan and make it mesh with a federal receiver’s demands for more prison hospital space and the governor’s own budget proposals to release prisoners early.
“AB 900 was your central argument to avoid a possible court-mandated early release of prisoners,” said Tuesday’s letter, signed by Senate President pro tempore Don Perata and four colleagues from the Senate majority. “Yet, one year since its passage, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has not constructed any beds!”
In his January budget proposal, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, proposed releasing thousands of prisoners to save money. And recently, the federal receiver in charge of the state’s prison health care system said California must authorize almost $7 billion of new debt for capital upgrades to that system.
“With all of the proposals out there, the prison population is a bouncing ball; we have no target,” the letter said. “We face a multibillion-dollar deficit and a $6.9 billion bond demand from the federal court receiver. A 2008-09 corrections budget is virtually impossible when we don’t know who’s on first.”
The senators asked the governor to respond within 30 days.