Monday, July 3, 2000

CALIFORNIA PRISON POPULATION DECLINES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 23 YEARS

The growth in California’s prison population is beginning to decline, announced California Department of Corrections (CDC) Director C.A. "Cal" Terhune today. On Sunday, June 25, 2000, the prison population was 161,401 – 360 fewer inmates than the same time last year.

"At the beginning of June, we had 468 fewer inmates than the same time the year before. The last time CDC experienced an absolute decline in the population compared to the prior 12 months was in 1977," Terhune said.

As recently as July 1997, the prison population growth was 11,878 inmates a year. However, the population growth has been steadily dropping over the past three years, as documented in the Department’s Spring 2000 Population Projections Report(.pdf).

"We do not yet know if this slowdown over the past three years represents a long-term trend or a short-term picture," Terhune said. "However, we are now seeing evidence of our earlier projections."

Between 1980 and 1989, the prison population grew by 14.5 percent a year. During the next decade, the growth slowed to an average of only 6.3 percent a year.

"Some of the reasons for this decline include a decrease in new admissions from court, fewer parole violators returned with new terms, and a slowdown in the rate of parole violators returned to custody," Terhune said.

Terhune credited the Department’s Preventing Parolee Crime Program for contributing to a significant reduction in the return-to-prison rate. The program provides substance abuse treatment, employment preparation and placement, and computer literacy training for parolees.

"More than a decade ago, nearly 70 out of every 100 offenders on parole returned to prison. Today, approximately 55 out of every 100 offenders on parole return to prison," Terhune said.

In addition, CDC has hired and graduated 227 new parole agents since July 1, 1999.

"Thanks to the commitment of Gov. Davis and the State Legislature, our 1,889 parole agents have more resources than ever before to provide increased supervision and intervention, and to fulfill the Department’s mission of public safety," Terhune said.

Terhune said that the budget signed into law by Gov. Davis continues the Administration’s commitment to reduce crime by putting more resources into assisting and supervising parolees. Among the new initiatives are these:

  • $10.4 million and 105 new parole agents to provide increased supervision of parolees who have two serious or violent felony convictions. This augmentation will lower the parolee-to-parole agent ratio from 70-1 to 40-1.
  • $2 million and 23 new parole agents to intensify efforts to apprehend parolees who have failed to maintain required contact with parole agents.
  • $1.9 million and 22 new parole agents to increase supervision of mentally ill parolees and assist them in obtaining services such as job training.
  • $6 million and about 60 staff people to expand current parole outpatient programs for mentally ill parolees.