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Prison Details Could Derail Calif. Budget

Prisoners lay on their bunks at California State Prison in Los Angeles County...

Credit: California Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation

Above: Prisoners lay on their bunks at California State Prison in Los Angeles County, located in the city of Lancaster. (Eds. note: The Department of Corrections said it no longer uses triple bunks in its facilities.)

— The brand-new deal to balance the state budget could be in jeopardy over details about prison cuts. Schwarzenegger Administration officials say the plan would shave more than a billion dollars from prison spending by reducing the population by about 27,000 inmates. Republicans say they won’t vote for any budget that includes the early release of prisoners.

Matthew Cate is Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He says it’s unfair to characterize the plan as early release. He says it includes parole changes and credits for inmates who complete rehabilitation programs. Cate says some inmates could also serve the last year of their sentences outside prison.

“They could be eligible for home detention or house arrest with the use of electronic monitoring or GPs," says Cate. They could be eligible for removal from the prison setting if they’re aged or infirm to a community hospital setting or a skilled nursing facility.”

Cate says the deportation of more than 8,000 illegal immigrant prisoners is also included in the plan. It’s unclear whether this will seriously threaten the budget deal or not. A vote in both houses is expected Thursday.

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