Lawmakers React To Governor's Proposal To Privatize Prisons

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger is urging state lawmakers to consider privatizing prisons to help California whittle away its 24-billion dollar deficit.  But, republican and democratic legislative leaders say they have concerns about the plan.

Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley reports...

In his speech to a joint session of lawmakers the governor said state spending on prisons has nearly doubled in the past five years...and he’d like the legislature to consider contracting out corrections to save money.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says she has some reservations... 
“You know I have concerns about private prisons and I think there’s a lot of experiences in other states that have shown maybe they are cheaper to run but in terms of public safety and their effectiveness I am doubtful...”
And, some republican lawmakers say privatizing prisons isn’t an immediate solution to the state’s financial crisis.  Senate GOP Leader Dennis Hollingsworth says he’s worried about the overhead costs... 
“Sure we should be looking at private re-entry facilities private construction of some of these facilities but we certainly shouldn’t be looking at Taj Mahal medical facilities at our state prison system...”
Hollingsworth says right now the focus should be on bringing down the costs of providing health care to inmates.    He’s referring to federal receiver Clark Kelso’s lawsuit against the state.  It’s asking the courts to require California to provide more money for prisoner medical programs.  Kelso’s office says he’s reached a tentative agreement with the state to dramatically reduce the amount he’s seeking from eight billion to two-billion dollars.