Prisons, law enforcement take cut in Davis proposal

The Associated Press
Tuesday May 15, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Slowing growth in the state’s inmate population due to a new drug treatment initiative allowed Gov. Gray Davis to cut $54 million in Department of Corrections spending in the revised budget proposal he released Monday. 

Nevertheless, Davis said, his budget protected law enforcement, one of what he called his two highest priorities, with public education. 

Davis’ highly touted “war on methamphetamine” initiative also took a hit, as he cut $10 million from the program he introduced in January. Despite the decrease, the budget proposes spending $30 million to fight meth production and distribution, particularly in the Central Valley. 

The prison population by the end of the fiscal year beginning July 1 is now projected to be nearly 9,000 inmates lower than was assumed in the budget Davis sent legislators in January. The number of parolees also is expected to shrink. 

Both changes are in large part due to voters’ approval in November of Proposition 36, which requires first- and second-time nonviolent drug offenders to be sent to treatment programs instead of prison or jail. 

That reduction will save the state’s general fund an estimated $81 million, but Davis proposes to spend part of the savings on other programs, including: 

•$1.9 million to study the results of Proposition 36 and coordinate with other agencies the movement of inmates and parolees into treatment programs. 

•$12.1 million to simultaneously fight and comply with a lawsuit over inmate medical care. That includes $5.3 million for legal and medical experts to fight the suit, and $6.8 million to try to gain certification for the prison system’s health care facilities as the suit demands. 

•$12 million to increase staff at prison segregation units. 

• $4 million to improve backup electricity generators, in light of the state’s energy crunch. 

• $6.9 million to cover holiday pay for the state’s new Cesar Chavez Holiday. 

Along with the Corrections Department changes, the revised budget proposes to increase Department of Justice spending by a net $4.4 million after a series of cuts and additions. 

That includes an extra $5.4 million for the attorney general’s office to expand its investigation into whether energy suppliers illegally cut supply and drove up prices in California. 

Budget changes and additions also provide an additional $6.7 million for the attorney general to prosecute antitrust violations in the high technology industry. 

It also includes $877,000 for special legal consultants to assist in efforts to recover an estimated $16.5 million in repairs to the state Capitol after a truck driver rammed it with his 18-wheeler in January.  

The state is attempting to recover the money from the driver’s employer, Salt Lake City-based Dick Simon Trucking, or its insurance company.