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Donnelly: Use Private Prisons to Ease California Inmate Overcrowding

U.S. Supreme Court ruling will force California to reduce population in many prisons. In a recent letter to the Governor, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly outlined his plan to avoid releasing inmates.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who represents the 59th District and in turn all Sierra Madre residents to the state legislature has written an open letter to California Governor Jerry Brown regarding his plan to reduce prison populations in the state.

Brown's plan to shift many nonviolent offenders from state detention facilities to county ones comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ordered the state to reduce its overcrowded prisons over the next two years.

In the letter, Donnelly take particular issue with Brown having "allowed AB 900 to sunset, meaning 10,000 additional inmates will soon be returned to California's prison system from private, out-of-state facilities."

Donnelly previously introduced a bill, AB 175, that sought to send more inmates in private prisons outside the state. While that measure failed in committee, Donnelly tells Brown in the letter, "you could preserve this critical safety valve."

After touching on his views of the Federal government's responsibility to provide more funding for the imprisonment of illegal aliens, Donnelly again returns to the private prison proposal, arguing that the Governor needs to "negotiate new contracts" and "fill every bed."

Donnelly then closes with a strongly-worded challenge to the Governor to respond to these proposals, saying to Brown "I am willing to debate these issues in a public forum of your choosing."

What follows is the full text of Donnelly's letter to Governor Brown. A PDF copy of the letter is also attached to this article.


Honorable Jerry Brown
Governor of California
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

June 7, 2011

Dear Governor Brown,

Last month I sent you a letter regarding your May Revise Budget plan. Now, I am compelled to write you to address a threat to the public safety and urge you to protect all Californians from the release of dangerous criminals onto the streets.

As you know, the United States Supreme Court has ordered California to reduce its prison population by 33,000 criminals in the next 2 years.

Your realignment plan would send thousands of State prisoners to the county jail without funding. This plan threatens public safety by placing an undue burden on the counties and forcing them to release inmates before their full sentences are served. At the same time as counties are told we cannot afford to fund this influx of prisoners your plan will send them, you have approved unlimited vacation build-up time and several other lucrative perks for the CCPOA. It is unfair and defies common sense to increase spending at a time when we are swimming in red ink.

To compound the problem, you have allowed AB 900 to sunset, meaning 10,000 additional inmates will soon be returned to California's prison system from private out-of-state facilities. We can send prisoners out of state for half the cost of what it takes to house them in California. There are other options, Governor.

A few months ago I introduced AB 175, which would have preserved California's ability to house inmates out of state to reduce overcrowding. The measure failed in the Public Safety Committee, but you could preserve this critical safety valve.

Secondly, I and several of my colleagues have called on President Obama to take responsibility for the criminal aliens in our prisons. This population accounts for over $885 million of our annual prison budget. The federal government has historically only reimbursed us a measly 10 cents on the dollar, despite the fact that these inmates are entirely their responsibility. I invite you to join us and fight for full State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding or for the federal government to take their inmates into custody.

Thirdly, there are numerous community based and private prisons, which are shutting down for lack of continued funding. Negotiate new contracts. Fill every bed. These proposals would result in lower costs and a more manageable prison system. Together we can both prove our prison system and maintain public safety.

To date, you have not responded to my last letter. I hope you receive this letter in the constructive spirit it is intended.  As I previously wrote, I am willing to debate these issues in any public forum of your choosing.

Godspeed,

Tim Donnelly
Assemblymember, 59th District

Ryan Sherman June 14, 2011 at 07:39 PM
It is clear why no one in Sacramento takes Mr. Donnelly seriously. First, he gets CCPOA's contract wrong - talking about "increased costs" despite the fact that they took a 5% pay cut, must pay more into their pension accounts, allowing the state to pay less, will received reduced pension benefits and must work an extra 5 years for to earn the reduced pension. Lucrative perks? I don't think so. Then, his AB 175 to expand the use of private prisons was laughed out of committee. He claims to be a "fiscal conservative" yet his bill would have INCREASED costs to California taxpayers by hundreds of millions of dollars - by creating jobs in other states and shipping tax dollars to the for-profit corporate headquarters in Florida and Tennessee. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) reported that out-of-state for-profit private prisons cost more than CA state prisons. Arizona published a report 2 months ago showing higher costs for private prisons than public prisons in that state. Mr. Donnelly's ideology is clearly much more important to him than prudent fiscal policies. If he wants a public debate on private prisons, I'd be happy to take him on, but I doubt he would accept. As he demonstrated in committee, he doesn't understand the issues, he doesn't know that facts and it's unlikely his ego could withstand another humiliating defeat on this issue - especially one in front of his constituents. Mr. Donnely, I eagerly await your reply.
Rachel June 15, 2011 at 01:17 PM
You have drastically underestimated the strength of his ego! He not only could withstand another defeat, but will gladly because defeat is the only road to victory.

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