HEADLINES : California
Officials announce sweeping overhaul of California prisons
SACRAMENTO - Officials Monday announced an overhaul of California prisons that would cut spending by billions of dollars, cancel some construction projects, close one lockup and bring back 9,500 inmates housed in other states - all while meeting court orders to reduce crowding and improve medical care.
If state lawmakers and federal judges sign off on the proposals, California's long-troubled prison system would look significantly different by 2016 - smaller, cheaper and more autonomous.
"It's a massive change," said Matthew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, touting the plan at a Capitol news conference.
Inmate numbers are already shrinking as low-level offenders are kept in local jails rather than sent to state prisons, part of officials' effort to comply with federal judges' orders. But prisons still weigh heavily on California's bursting budget, increasing from 3% of general-fund spending just over three decades ago to a proposed 9.4% in the next fiscal year.
If the new plan is successful, prisons will fall to 7.5% of spending in the 2015-16 budget.