California Prisons Defend $3 Billion Budget Drop from Pledge

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SACRAMENTO (AP) —

California prison officials say federal mandates are mostly to blame for a $3 billion drop in the budget savings they promised four years ago.

They released a new long-term plan Wednesday. It explains why the savings disappeared and the corrections department’s budget increased in Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest spending proposal.

The plan says federal judges required California to cut its prison population more than the state wished. That meant California was forced to send inmates to more expensive private prisons and has to keep open a dilapidated state lockup to avoid releasing inmates early.

But the department now houses about 35,000 fewer inmates than it did at its peak in 2006.

The lower inmate count is leading liberal and conservative advocacy groups and a state lawmaker to question the spending.