SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to significantly shrink the footprint of California’s prison system, partly because of massive budget cuts prompted by the pandemic but also because of philosophy.
The revised budget he sent to state lawmakers this week envisions closing two state prisons in the coming years; cutting nearly one in five of the 43 inmate firefighter camps; and eventually closing all three state-run juvenile prisons.
He’s also seeking unspecified increases to sentencing credits that allow inmates to leave prison more quickly. And he proposes to shorten parole to a maximum of two years, down from five years for felonies, and let ex-felons earn their way off supervision in just a year, or 18 months for sex offenders.
The Democratic governor called it a “core value” of his administration to eliminate prisons and invest more in education. It follows nearly a decade of prison reform in California, starting under Gov. Jerry Brown when the state began keeping less serious criminals in county jails as one way to cut spending during the Great Recession.