Gavin Newsom has closed 3 California prisons. Now lawmakers are planning to shut down more

Rich Pedroncelli/AP file

The day after California officials announced the state will close its third prison, a top Democratic lawmaker indicated more shutdowns may be in the pipeline.

A Budget Blueprint that Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, released on Wednesday suggested the state should close three more prisons over the next three years, in addition to the two facilities already slated for closure in 2023.

Ting’s proposal follows the state’s announcement that it will close Chuckwalla Valley State Prison in Riverside County by 2025. Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy and the California Correctional Center in Lassen County will both shut their doors next year.

The Assemblyman rolled out initial plans as officials begin to plan for the next budget cycle. The state is facing a potential $25 billion deficit, and leaders are hoping to maintain programs even through potentially lean times.

Ting’s budget blueprint estimated that three more closures could cut $500 million annually and “avoids billions in capital expenses.”

The Assembly projection is in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s own budget goals. His May budget revision said the state could close three prisons during the next three years.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office in 2020 said California should shut down five state prisons by 2025, which would save the state $1.5 billion when combined with planned youth prison closures.

The state has been closing prison facilities as its inmate population shrinks. California prisons had 94,000 inmates last week — a significant drop from 2011, when the system held 160,000 incarcerated people.

Even so, the state’s corrections spending has ballooned from $10.2 billion in 2012-13 to $14.6 billion in 2022-23, Ting noted.

During a press call, the Assemblyman said shutting down prisons is the “only way that we can really reduce our corrections budget.” He said preventing recidivism is also a major state goal.

“We’re working harder to have a better process so that once folks come out of prison, that they have a higher chance of not going back,” Ting said. “So really focusing on employment opportunities, as well as higher education while they’re incarcerated.”