California's 58 counties house juveniles and adults, who have been arrested for a crime, are awaiting trial, or are serving time for committing a crime. Juveniles are housed in juvenile halls or other county detention facilities, such as ranches and camps. Adult offenders are housed in county jails.
Juvenile Facilities. Generally, counties supervise juvenile offenders either at home or in juvenile halls, ranches, or camps. Statewide, there are more than 50,000 juvenile offenders under the supervision of county probation departments. This includes 6,000 juveniles who are detained in juvenile halls operated by 43 counties, and about 4,000 juvenile offenders who are housed in ranches and camps operated by 23 counties. Almost all of the juvenile halls report overcrowding.
Since 1988, the voters have approved $100 million in general obligation bonds for renovating, constructing, and acquiring new juvenile facilities. The funds from these bonds have been fully committed for various projects. A March 1995 assessment of California's juvenile halls, ranches, and camps conducted for the California Department of the Youth Authority, identified the need for more than $350 million to upgrade and develop new juvenile facilities.
Adult Facilities. In 1995, more than 1.1 million adults were booked into California jails. California's jails house on an average day more than 70,000 adults either awaiting trial or serving a sentence. Almost all of the jails in the state have reported overcrowding. In 27 counties with overcrowded jail conditions, courts have imposed limits on the number of people that can be held at any one time. As a result, some people must be released in the event that the jail population on a given day would exceed the specified limit. Jails in these counties account for more than 70 percent of the state's total jail beds.
New criminal laws have resulted in larger numbers of persons awaiting trial and, as a consequence, there has been less available space to house persons who have been sentenced. As a result, many inmates in jail serve only a fraction of their sentence. In 1995, more than 21,000 persons per month were released from jails, who otherwise would have been incarcerated, because of a lack of space. The Board of Corrections reports that the need for jail space will continue to increase, and that by the year 2000, there will be a need for an additional 30,000 beds.
Since 1981, the voters have authorized the state to sell about $1.6 billion in general obligation bonds to raise money to expand and improve county jail facilities. All of this money is fully committed for various projects.
This measure authorizes the state to sell $700 million in general obligation bonds for county juvenile and adult detention facilities. The money raised from the bond sales would be used for the construction, renovation, remodeling, and replacement of local facilities that are used to treat, rehabilitate, and punish juvenile offenders ($350 million) and adult offenders ($350 million). General obligation bonds are backed by the state, meaning that the state is obligated to pay the principal and interest costs on these bonds. General Fund revenues would be used to pay these costs. These revenues come primarily from the state personal and corporate income taxes and sales tax.
The amount of money a county would be eligible to receive would be determined by the Legislature and the Governor. However, the measure provides that in order for a county to receive bond monies for either juvenile or adult facilities, it would be required to provide matching funds equal to 25 percent of the project's costs (this provision could be modified or waived by the Legislature). In addition, a county would have to identify the county's (or group of counties acting together) plan for providing services for juvenile and adult offenders ranging from prevention through detention. The plan must also show that the county has used, to the greatest practical extent, alternatives to detention. In addition, the plan must identify how the county will maximize all funding sources--local, state, and federal--for providing services to offenders.
Costs of Paying Off the Bonds. For these types of bonds, the state makes principal and interest payments from the state's General Fund, typically over a period of about 25 years. If the $700 million in bonds were sold at an interest rate of 6 percent, the cost would be about $1.25 billion to pay off both the principal ($700 million) and the interest ($550 million). The average payment for principal and interest would be about $50 million per year.
Cost to Operate the Local Facilities. Counties will incur increased costs to operate additional facilities constructed with these bond funds. The additional operating costs are unknown, but could be millions of dollars annually.