Crime & Justice

California Legislative Analyst's Office questions Brown's jail funding proposal, predicts further court cuts

Governor Jerry Brown's proposed 2014-2015 budget contains $14.1 billion in criminal justice related funding.
Governor Jerry Brown's proposed 2014-2015 budget contains $14.1 billion in criminal justice related funding.
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If Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget is passed by the legislature without changes, Californians can expect further court cuts, according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

The LAO, which provides recommendations to the state legislature, released a review Wednesday of Brown's criminal justice proposals, totaling $14.1 billion, included in his initial 2014-2015 budget. Courts occupied a good portion of the 60-page document, which can be read below.

The state's court system has been cut over the past four years. By 2012-2013, the courts received $778 million less than they did in 2007-2008. The drop in funds has been offset with a reserve built up in prior years, but that source has pretty much run dry.

Over the past couple of years, trial courts have done things like "leaving staff vacancies unfilled, renegotiating contracts with employees and vendors, delaying purchases, closing courtrooms or courthouses, reducing clerk office hours, and reducing self-help and family law services," according to the LAO's report.

"Some of these actions have resulted in reduced access to court services, longer wait times for court services and hearings, and courts being unable to complete workload in a timely manner," according to the report.

Though last year's budget infused an extra $60 million into the courts and this year's proposal would send another $100 million their way, "it is possible that the increased funding proposed in the Governor’s budget will only minimize further reductions in court services," the report says.

But the LAO points out that inefficiencies in the court system could be keeping costs higher than they need to be — only 4 of 17 recommended efficiencies and fee hikes have been implemented.

For example, courts store files and exhibits in death penalty cases until an inmate is executed, the report notes. Meaning that if a death row inmate is not executed and dies of natural causes or of suicide or some some cause other than execution, the courts have to absorb the costs of storing their files forever. And about 87 percent of all death row inmates have died of causes other than execution since 1978.

Changing that law, along with others, can help the courts save money and redirect their funds to other areas, the LAO said.

Besides the courts, the LAO's analysis focused mostly on prison funding and jail construction proposals, including these interesting tidbits:

The full report can be read below:

The 2014-15 Budget-Governor’s Criminal Justice Proposals