In recent years, California has made significant progress in reducing the number of people involved with the state correctional system. These declines resulted from criminal justice reforms adopted by state policymakers and the voters following a 2009 federal court order requiring California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.
This Issue Brief examines changes in corrections spending from the 2007-08 fiscal year — when the numbers of incarcerated adults and parolees peaked — to 2015-16, which began this past July. While total corrections spending as a share of the state budget is down slightly since 2007-08, spending for adults under state jurisdiction — which comprises more than 80 percent of total corrections expenditures and includes security and operations as well as health care — remains stubbornly high.
Significantly — and permanently — reducing corrections spending will require the state to take additional steps. These could include further reforming California’s sentencing laws, particularly with an eye toward cutting the length of prison sentences. This would reduce the number of incarcerated adults, which would allow the state to close one or more prisons and could help to lower prison health care spending.