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State lawmakers want answers on prison spending

March 1, 2012 |  5:32 pm

San Quentin state prison
When California’s prison system ran into the red last year, lawmakers forked over an additional $380 million. But now lawmakers say they can’t get answers on where the money went, and prison officials have missed two deadlines to explain the spending.

“The bureaucrats running our prisons habitually break their budgets and refuse to open their books to show us why,” Assembly Budget Chairman Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) said in a statement.  “We’re tired of being stonewalled. This behavior is not just illegal, it’s contemptible considering the other painful budget cuts we’ve made in order to bail them out.”

Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the extra funds were needed for a simple reason: running the state’s 33 prisons proved more expensive than expected.

He said officials are pulling together details on the spending for lawmakers.

“They are working on the report, and it will get to the Assembly committee as soon as possible,” Callison said.

According to the budget committee, lawmakers needed to send more money to the prison system in four of the last five budget years, for a total of nearly $3 billion.

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to trim spending on state prisons to about $8.7 billion, down from $9 billion in the current budget year.

-- Chris Megerian

Twitter: @chrismegerian


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Photo: San Quentin State Prison  Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press