Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest budget proposal would reduce by tens of thousands the number of criminals behind bars and under community supervision.
Parole would be eliminated for all nonserious, nonviolent and non-sex offenders. The proposal would cut the parole population by about 65,000 by June 30, 2010, or more than half of the Christmas Eve count of 123,144.
At the same time, the corrections plan calls for increasing good-time credits for inmates who obey the rules and complete rehabilitation programs. Combined with the new parole policies that would result in fewer violators forced back into custody, the proposal would reduce the prison population by 15,000 by June 30, 2010. It stood at 171,542 on Dec. 24.
Department of Finance Director Mike Genest said the state's worsening budget scenario again forced the administration to look at prison and parole population cuts as front-burner proposals to save money.
"I don't think there are very many proposals in this whole budget that are easy for us, or for anybody," Genest said in an interview. "They're all difficult. That one's difficult, but we think we've structured it in such a way as to protect public safety."
Genest said that California's parole population far outstrips any other state, and that the administration's plan would bring its policies for released offenders mostly in line with the rest of the country.
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