Monday, September 10, 2012

Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California - CALIFORNIA SPENDING MORE ON PRISONS THAN COLLEGES, REPORT SAYS

Aaron Sankin

by Aaron Sankin in The Huffington Post | 

California Prisons Colleges

Updated: 09/08/2012 4:32 pm  ::  There's a direct relationship between how much money the Golden State spends on prisons and how much it spends on higher education, according to a report (follows) put out by the non-partisan public policy group California Common Sense. When one goes up, the other goes down.

And, at least in California, the former has been going up a lot more than the latter.

The study, entitled Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California, looked at the state's general fund expenditures on corrections and higher education from the period between 1981 and 2011.

Since 1980, higher education spending has decreased by 13 percent in inflation adjusted dollars, whereas spending on California's prisons and associated correctional programs has skyrocketed by 436 percent. The state now shells out more money from its general fund for the prison system than the higher education system. (When combined with K-12 education, the state's overall education spending dwarfs its prison expenditures.)

Fifty-five percent of the growth of corrections spending is the result of the state simply putting more people in jail. Over the past three decades, the number of inmates in California facilities has increased eight times faster than size of the overall population.

The report notes that, while the average salaries for employees of the state's world-renowned higher education system have stagnated or even dropped with regard to inflation, prison guards have seen sustained salary increases. Correctional officers in California typically make somewhere between 50 and 90 percent more than comparable jobs in the rest of the country.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesperson Ryan Sherman defended the high salaries. "Buying a house in the Bay Area is extremely expensive. There's a number of prisons in the Bay Area and so the officers need to be compensated appropriately in California," he explained to NBC Bay Area, noting that many prison employees have taken pay cuts in recent years. "[California Highway Patrol] officers are paid more than correctional officers and it's the same standards, same hiring practices they go through, so I don't know that they’re paid too much. I think they actually deserve more."

Prison guards aren't the only part of the state's penal system that has gotten considerably more expensive over time.

A 2009 investigation by the state's Legislative Analyst's Office noted that, over the previous decade, state spending per inmate has increased by two-thirds, largely due to a federal court order to improve prisoner health care, increased spending on rehab programs and the aforementioned employee compensation increases.

California's general fund is the sole source of state-level funding for its prison system, while special funds derived from specific funding sources are earmarked for channeling money into its education system. Due to the state's ongoing budget crisis, those special funds are increasingly being borrowed from to close the ever-growing hole in the general fund budget.

The report states that in 1980, over two-thirds of all the money spent on secondary education came from the state government. At present, that percentage has shrunk to about one-fourth.

As a result, the higher education system has been forced to rely more heavily on student tuition. In 2009, mass student protests erupted when the University of California's Board of Regents voted to hike tuition by 32 percent. The following year saw another eight percent tuition increase.

A 20 percent hike has been threatened for the next school year if California voters reject the tax measure pushed by Governor Jerry Brown.

Brown has also instituted a program called "realignment" designed to both cut the state's prison spending and comply with a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandating the California get serious about solving its dire prison overcrowding population.

Realignment is designed to shift non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual convicts (read: drug offenders) to county jails, instead of state penitentiaries, where local sheriffs have significantly more freedom in what methods they're able to employ.

Officials hope that realignment with not only improve the conditions inside California's jails, but also decrease their overall cost.


REPORT - Winners and Losers: Corrections and Higher Education in California 

By Prerna Anand , California Common Sense |

Sep 5, 2012


In introducing his 2012 budget, Governor Jerry Brown offered a gloomy outlook, saying “The budget that I am submitting today keeps the cuts made last year and adds new ones. The stark truth is that without some new taxes, damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts will only increase”.[1] But while the recent cuts have affected all areas of government, historically, the axe has not fallen equally.  Among discretionary spending, two major areas have experienced very different treatment, particularly during recessions.  As state support for higher education has lagged over the years, spending on state prisons has soared.

The topic is made all the more controversial by California’s unusually high per-prisoner spending [2] and skyrocketing public university tuitions, implemented in response to the State’s cuts to higher education.  Studies by the Public Policy Institute of California,[3] University of California[4] and the California Legislative Analyst’s Office have previously compared these two program areas.[5]

This report presents a number of the trends in higher education and the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) over the last three decades.  It collects previously unavailable or scattered data for a variety of measures including system population by groups, numbers and salaries of general staff and primary service providers, and overall expenditures for the period 1980-2011, with 1980 being the earliest date for which comprehensive data is available for both systems.[6]  While we note a number of interesting findings, a further goal of the report is to make this data available for other research (the data behind the charts can be found in the corresponding visualizations on our web site).

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Corrections’ growing slice of the State budget, High Education’s shrinking slice. As CDCR’s share of the State General Fund budget increased steadily through most of the last three decades, higher education’s share declined consistently.
  • Corrections’ first recession era budget cuts in 30 years. Although the Corrections budget survived most previous economic downturns unscathed, since the onset of the most recent economic downturn, expenditure on Corrections has seen a substantial decline.
  • Corrections inmate population explosion driving higher costs. Over the last 30 years, the number of people California incarcerates grew more than eight times faster than the general population.  Our calculations show that 55% of the increase in the cost of the state prison system between 1980 and 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) can be traced to this rapid growth. 
  • Annual salary increases for prison guards, stagnant faculty salaries over last decade. Whereas prison guard salaries are subject to periods of sustained salary increases, faculty salaries have seen only weak growth over the years, falling in real terms over the past decade.

STATE GENERAL FUNDS: Contribution trends

Together, K-12 education and higher education receive the largest portion of State General Fund expenditures (more than half), followed by Health & Human Services (about one-third), and Corrections (one tenth). Of these, higher education’s share of funding has declined most consistently. The University of California (UC), California State University (CSU) and California Community Colleges (CCC) are the major systems that comprise the public higher education system in California.  Once receiving far more than corrections, higher education now receives slightly less funding than corrections.

General Funds’ Appropriations 

Figure 1: State General Funds Expenditures (adjusted for inflation)

Figure 1 illustrates the trends of General Fund appropriations to both program areas over the last thirty years. Higher education has seen periods of large cuts over the years, linked to the economic cycles in California. After adjusting for inflation, higher education in 2011 received 13% less State funding than it did in 1980. Corrections, on the other hand, expanded its share of the State’s General Fund by 436%. In fact, the only significant reductions in Corrections’ funding occurred after the 2007 recession.

Figure 2: Each System's Portion of State General Funds

While both higher education and corrections each receive more today than they did in 1980, in terms of their shares of the State budget, the two areas have experienced reversed fates (Figure 2). After steady growth for the better part of the 1980s, the 1990 economic downturn – fueled by high oil prices and the Gulf War – drove a reduction in California’s revenue stream. To make up for the resulting $2 billion General Fund deficit,[7] the State cut higher education’s share of the budget from 12.6% in 1991 to 11.3% in 1993. However, the State increased corrections’ share of the budget from 5.9% to 7.8% during this period.[8]

California’s economy expanded during the 1990s, and the State responded by increasing General Fund spending for all program areas. During the second half of the decade – between 1993 and 2000 – the State increased its funding of higher education and corrections by 98% and 73% respectively.  But following the 2001 economic downturn, the State again cut higher education by 11% and corrections by 2%.

Between 2003 and the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007, both higher education and corrections reaped the benefits of the housing boom as revenue to the State spiked, so too did their State funding (38% and 91% respectively), though corrections grew more rapidly.

The downturn in 2008 profoundly impacted California. The State’s General Fund budget shrank from $129.7 billion in 2007 to $114.8 billion in 2008, driving the State to reduce funding to all areas. Consequently, higher education experienced a cut in state funding of 18.7% between 2007 and 2009, largely in the form of furloughs, and corrections took a 20% cut. Some of the gaps left by evaporating state money were temporarily replaced by the “federal stimulus,” the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The stimulus package allotted $1.1 billion to California’s higher education system in 2009 and $314 million in 2010. Similarly, corrections received $528 million in 2009 and $106 million in 2010.[9] As the federal money dries up, however, state revenues have yet to recover.

Comparison of Expenditure requirements

Figure 3: Total Budget of Each System (nominal dollars)

Figure 3 shows a comparison of total funds each system requires to operate.  It illustrates that as State support for higher education has waned, other sources – such as tuition have made up the difference to fund the system’s higher costs.  It also demonstrates how quickly corrections’ budget has grown, expanding from $622 million in 1980 to $9.2 billion in 2011, an increase of more than 1300%.

Some of the corrections budget decline after 2007 resulted from State funding shifts of $599 million and $219.5 million away from the State corrections system as part of the 2009 prison and parole reforms.[10] These reforms reduced the number of inmates in state prisons by shifting non-serious, non-violent offenders to county jails, and shifting drug offenders to substance abuse rehabilitation programs, also operated by counties. The reforms also instituted provisions that limited parole supervision to serious, violent and sexual offenders rather than all legal offenders, as was previously the case.

Higher education’s total expenditures grew from $4.6 billion in 1980 to $28.6 billion in 2011. But while in 1980 more than two-thirds of higher education funding came from the State, today only one-quarter does. In light of declining State funding, California’s public higher education institutions have attempted to plug the State funding gap with federal funding, local grants and higher tuition fees (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Revenue Sources in Higher Education (nominal dollars)

The institutions are relying more heavily on tuition fees, raising them significantly and multiple times during the last few years. While the tuition rates remain lower at California’s public institutions than at comparable non-California institutions across the nation, recent hikes have brought them much closer to the national average.  However, the extent to which the three college systems have relied on other sources of funding has varied wildly.  Figure 5 breaks down each of the college system’s revenue sources since 1985.

Figure 5: Breakdown of Revenue Sources for the Three College Systems (nominal dollars)

Prior to the 2007 recession, the State was the largest single revenue source for CSU and CCC, even as CSU experienced a continuous decline in state funding (when adjusted for inflation).  At UC, the State General Fund provided about half of all the University’s revenues in 1985, but by 2007, state funding made up only about one-fourth of UC’s budget. Since 2007 alone, student tuition fees have more than doubled for UC and CSU students, while they have increased by 80% for CCC students.  To reduce the burden on the lower income students, the systems are redirecting a portion of the increased tuition revenue to need-based financial aid.[11] Still, UC documents show that a substantial portion of even middle class students have had to take out much larger loans to cope with the growing tuition burden.

Figure 6: Distribution of State's General Fund Money within the Higher Education Systems (nominal dollars)

Although all three college systems have experienced similar patterns of State appropriations over the last 30 years, cuts to CCC tended to be more severe than those to UC and CSU until 2007 (Figure 6). Between 1991 and 1993, allocations from the State General Fund declined 15% for UC, 11% for CSU and 31% for CCC. A decade later, between 2002 and 2003, CCC faced reductions of 16% while UC and CSU saw 9% and 7% reductions, respectively. One exception to this pattern occurred in 2004 when UC and CSU saw reductions of 6% and 2%, respectively, but CCC received a 36% funding boost based on the funding level to which it was entitled under Proposition 98.[12]  This pattern reversed after the start of the 2007 recession, during which time the UC and CSU bore larger cuts to their budgets (26% and 27%, respectively) than CCC (11%).  In 2011, both UC and CSU experienced further 22% State funding cuts and CCC state funding was cut 15%. In 2013, these cuts may repeat as the Governor tied 2012-13 higher education funding to the passage of his proposed tax increase on the November ballot.


California is the most populous state in the nation, growing more than 57% over the last three decades to reach its current population of 37.3 million residents.[13]  Over the same thirty years, the populations of California’s public institutions have also expanded, though at very different rates.

Population comparison

Figure 7: Student & Inmate Population Growth

Figure 7 compares growth of the State’s student and inmate populations over the last thirty years (the chart is normalized to show growth relative to 1980 levels). While the student population growth has approximately kept pace with the overall growth of the state population, the number of incarcerated felons in state prisons has increased at more than eight times the rate of the state population. Although prison construction ramped up in the late 1980’s, the system could not accommodate the rapid inflow of inmates, and prisons were forced to operate at up to twice their design capacities. After a decade of operation in these conditions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that California must reduce its prison population to 137% of design capacity within 2 years.[14]  Thus far, the Brown administration has relied on several measures to reduce the State prison population, including transferring inmates to out-of-state prison and sentencing low-level offenders to time in county jails.[15]

Student Population Analysis

Figure 8: Student Population in each College System 

Figure 8 illustrates the distribution of students across California’s three major higher education systems. The populations are represented as  full-time equivalent (FTE) students in general campus programs, meaning that students enrolled in the program half-time count as half a student. The student enrollment in UC has grown considerably faster than the other two systems and the state general population, increasing 96% over the last 30 years, compared to 52% for CSU and 47% for CCC.  However, the vast majority of students still attend the community college system.  When the increasing student population is put in perspective of decreasing state funds, it shows a definitive trend in State priorities: at least since 2001, the State is spending less money on more students.

Inmate Population Analysis

Figure 9: Offender Populations in the CDCR System

Figure 9 shows the number of inmates housed in correctional facilities operated by the State, including juvenile facilities, measured as Average Daily Population (ADP). California experienced exponential prison population growth in the 1980s and 1990s. These increases in the inmate and parolee populations are enormous departures from the 1940-1960s when California’s prison system maintained a relatively small population that saw only very modest growth.[16]

Our impact assessment revealed that approximately 60% of the increase in total CDCR costs from 1980 to 2012 (adjusted for inflation) can be attributed to “excess inmate population growth.”[17]  While California’s crime rate has been declining since early 1990s,[18] the State prison population grew by 42% since 1992.  Policies like the 1977 Determinate Sentencing Law, the 1984-1991 sentence enhancements bills, the 1994 Three Strikes law and Proposition 21 (which required trying juvenile offenders as adults) have ratcheted up punishment severity over time.  These policies have also contributed to a shift in the age demographics of the inmate population: as the proportion of younger inmates (between 18-40 years old) has declined, the percentage of older inmates (older than 50 years old) has grown.

Unlike the adult inmate population, which rose steadily for two decades, the juvenile inmate population has been declining since 1995. Reeling from a rise in juvenile violent crimes during the early 1990s,[19] California (like several other states) began allowing serious and violent juvenile offenders to be tried in adult courts. The State housed the remaining offenders in juvenile correctional facilities. But since 1995, there has been a significant decline in juvenile crime rates throughout the country, including California. Although no single factor has been found to be primarily responsible for this decline, frequently cited reasons include a) reduced number of opportunities for juveniles to enter the drug trade; b) a change among youths’ attitudes toward drugs; c) the emergence of community programs focused on decreasing and preventing juvenile delinquencies; d) increased availability of mental health assessments and support for juveniles.[20]

Since 2007, California has started to transfer juvenile offenders convicted of non-violent, non-serious crimes to the county system to provide better chances for those offenders to successfully reintegrate into their local communities and remain close to their families.

Shifting juvenile offenders to the county system does not necessarily reduce the number of juvenile offenders in the California, but it does lighten the burden of maintaining multiple correctional facilities on the CDCR operational budget. In 2006, the cost of housing one juvenile offender was $169,783, while the cost of housing an adult inmate was $41,966. As part of CDCR’s phase-out of most juveniles, in 2011, CDCR’s juvenile population was less than 1% of all juvenile arrests made in the state.[21]  The phase-out also created the opportunity to convert underutilized juvenile facilities into adult prisons to reduce existent overcrowding.


In absolute terms, personnel numbers have increased in both corrections and higher education over time. However, these increases have not kept pace with the growing populations in each system.

Figure 10: Staff Population Comparison between higher education and Corrections (Normalized ratio)

The first chart of Figure 10 illustrates the change over time in the ratio of primary service providers to the “beneficiary population” for respective systems – i.e. faculty per 100 students and guards per 100 inmates. The second chart makes the same comparison, but for non-primary staff. Showing these figures as a normalized ratio allows us to effectively compare the trends across the two systems relative to 1980 levels. While acknowledging that universities may require more faculty members per student than prisons require guards per prisoner (or vice versa), normalizing the ratio enables us to focus on the trends rather than the actual ratios themselves.

Within corrections, staff and security headcounts have not increased enough to match inmate population growth since 1980. California prisons have operated with a base staffing system with flexibility for personnel adjustments as the need arises. Between 1980 and 1992, there was substantial volatility of resources as the system coped with a rapid influx of inmates.

With overcrowding becoming a serious concern in the 1990s, the system shifted its focus to providing adequate security, driving an increase in the number of security personnel employed in the department. Given the eight new prisons that opened up during this decade, the increase in security personnel was essential. The growth continued until 2008, more than keeping pace with the growing inmate population. Layoffs and furloughs following the 2008 recession have again dropped the inmate-security guard ratio below 1980 levels. Although the staff ratios in themselves do not indict the system, they can be combined with data, such as violent incident statistics in prisons, to evaluate the adequacy of resources available.

Higher education Staff Breakdown

Figure 11: Staff to Student ratios at UC, CSU & CCC (log scale)

Similarly, the ratio of staff (excluding faculty) to students has fallen over the thirty years, today being well below 1980 levels, 20% below the 1980 level in the case of CSU. However, quite notably, the middle management in UC has actually grown considerably in last 10 years.[22]Figure 11 illustrates that over the last three years, the number of faculty throughout the three college systems have not kept pace with increasing enrollment. These lower faculty to student ratios have resulted in larger average class sizes and limited availability of classes required for graduation. In 1980, there was one faculty member for every 16 students at UC. In 2010, there was one faculty member for every 21 students. In the CSU system, that ratio has gone from 21:1 to 32:1 during the same period, a 33% decline.

The CCC system does not provide staff data prior to 2000, but trends over the last decade reveal a fairly stable ratio of staff to students. This holds true for the faculty to student ratios as well, indicating that the system has managed to keep pace with growing enrollment through its guaranteed funding levels mandated under Proposition 98.

Corrections Staff Breakdown

Figure 12: Staff to Inmate/Parolee ratios for CDCR (log scale)

Figure 12 illustrates that as the inmate population expanded in the 1980s, corrections staff and security hiring levels did not keep pace with the inmate population increase. But since the early 1990s, the number of prison guards for every adult inmate has been growing. Over the last few years, the guard to inmate ratio has returned approximately to the 1980 level, despite the population explosion since then. On the other hand, the number of staff per inmate has dropped precipitously since 1980, indicating that the hiring of new counselors, medical service providers, general support staff, etc. has not kept pace with the inmate population’s growth.

The juvenile system experienced similar trends until the mid-1990s.  But since then, a decline in juvenile crime rates has reduced the number of juvenile offenders in the state system to a tenth of what it used to be. Consequently, several juvenile correctional facilities are either closed down or are being converted into adult correctional facilities. Because the number of staff and guards in the juvenile system did not decline as quickly as the juvenile population, between 1995 and 2008, the number staff and guards per juvenile inmate nearly tripled.  In the last four years, however, that ratio has started to return to previous levels.

While the majority of U.S. states have a discretionary parole system combined with indeterminate sentencing (where courts sentence felons to a term that is a range of time, e.g. 5-10 years, and release is dependent on the inmate’s behavior assessment),[23] California practices mandatory parole probation following a determinate sentence (prison term with a definite release date), meaning that upon release from prison almost all inmates are put on parole. Over the last three decades, California’s parole population has swelled six times, making it increasingly difficult to provide adequate parole services within budget allotments.

Though there has been improvement recently, today a parole agent in California is still responsible for almost 40 parolees, which hinders an agent’s ability to effectively monitor them. This is one of the factors that helped drive California’s recidivism rate (rate at which parolees return to prison) to more than 60%.[24]  During the last four years, there have been fewer court-mandated releases to parole, and the system is increasingly sending non-serious, non-violent offenders to community supervision instead of parole, increasing the parole agent to parolee ratio.

With the influx of prison population straining CDCR’s budget, post-release services such as psychiatric counseling and vocational programs also faced budget cuts. Similar to correctional institutions, the focus in California’s parole system de-prioritized rehabilitation. Consequently, the staff to parolee ratio is at an all-time low, about 1.6 staff for every 100 parolees.


As of 2011, CDCR’s annual budget is $9.3 billion while that of UC, CSU, and CCC together is $28.6 billion. Like other government and non-government systems, staff salary and benefit payments comprise a large portion of these budgets.

Expenditure per Beneficiary

Figure 13: Per-Beneficiary Expenditures (Normalized)

We find that since 1982, per-student expenditures have generally risen, but that rise came to a halt around the year 2000 (Figure 13).  As previously discussed, the higher education system offset cuts in state funding with federal, local and other sources to keep pace with the rising enrollment numbers. We can attribute the dip in 2008 to the reduced budget expenditures throughout the state following the onset of the recession. In part, the dip reflects mandatory furloughs within higher education.

Per-inmate spending, on the other hand, remained below the 1980 level until 2006, declining during the rapid increase of the inmate population. After 2003, CDCR experienced a steep rise in its total budget allocation, which jumped from $6.2 billion in 2003 to $10.6 billion in 2008. The State justified the increased allocation based on a mix of various factors such as population increases, rapidly rising prison guard salaries, federally mandated health care expenditures and capital expenditures for facilities. The increase brought the per-inmate expenditure to 1980 levels. Because of the court-mandated reduction in the inmate population, per-inmate expenditures have remained above the 1980 levels even in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Education Expenditure Breakdown

Figure 14: Comparison of Per-Student Expenditure in UC, CSU & CCC (log scale, adjusted for inflation)

Figure 14 shows higher education spending in more detail. When adjusted for inflation, the per-student expenditure has remained fairly uniform throughout the last three decades, with UC spending the most per student, followed by CSU and CCC.  We should note that the “expenditure per student” includes money spent on research and other programs within the university (see the Appendix).

Comparing Faculty and Security Salaries

Figure 15: Average Salaries of CSU Faculty and CDCR Security Personnel (adjusted for inflation)

In 1980, an average California security personnel member made $25,858 a year while a CSU faculty earned about $29,015 annually. In 2006, the average security guard salary peaked at $94,518 while the average CSU faculty salary was $70,615. After adjusting for inflation, average faculty salaries have remained fairly stable within a $75,000-$93,000 window over the last three decades. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, the 2010 average faculty salary was lower than that of 1980.

Over the last decade, CCC faculty salaries have been higher than those of CSU, though both are far below those of UC. In a 2007 report, the California Post-secondary Education Commission (CPEC) noted that “Based on five-year trend projections, faculty salaries at the California State University and the University of California will lag salaries at comparable institutions.”[25] For its efforts, the CPEC was itself disbanded last year.

Though higher education systems are spending 40-50% more per student (adjusting for inflation), there are fewer faculty members to teach them and in real dollars, those fewer salary members are earning less than faculty members three decades ago.  So where are the systems redirecting their additional per-student spending? At least in the case of UC, we identified rapid growth in middle management and its support staff (which in recent years, accounted for 20% of UC’s total budget).[26]  Other possible culprits include increased construction and sophistication of facilities, non-instructional programs, and staff healthcare and retirement costs.

On the other hand, prison guards saw an increase in average salaries over the last 30 years. While faculty salaries do not comprise a major portion of higher education spending, the opposite is true of prison guard salaries.  California Corrections Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) became the sole labor union of correctional officers in 1980. Through collective bargaining agreements with the State, between 1990 and 2006, CCPOA managed to secure consistent increases in salaries for its prison guard members. According to a report published by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), CDCR peace officer and supervisor salaries and benefits comprised 40% of the entire State General Fund’s personnel salary expenditures in 2007.[27]

However, average prison guard salaries took a sharp dive in 2006 when CCPOA failed to reach an agreement on a new contract with then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor Schwarzenegger imposed the State’s “last, best and final offer,” which called for reductions in salary and benefit growth. During Spring 2011, CCPOA succeeded in negotiating a two-year contract with the newly elected Governor Brown. Through the negotiations, CCPOA secured salary increases in 2013. Despite their salary declines between 2006 and 2012, California’s prison guards still earned higher salaries than CSU college professors – and twice the national average for prison guards.[28]


While higher education has experienced little structural change since the 1960 Master Plan,[29] Corrections has experienced a number of legislative and policy changes. The following are some of the key milestones in recent decades:

  • Determinate Sentencing Law, 1977: Aiming for greater uniformity in criminal sentencing as well as proportionality of the punishment with the offense, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Determinate Sentencing Law.[30] The law enforces fixed term sentences and restricts the possibility of early release from prison for good behavior, thereby shifting the system’s focus from rehabilitation to punishment.
  • Sentencing Enhancements, 1984-1991: California passed over 1000 crime policy bills during this period.[31] Because the Determinate Sentencing Law reduced the judiciary’s discretionary power to assess when a felon was ready for release to some extent, these sentencing enhancements enumerated various aggravating circumstances (such as prior convictions) that would add extra years to a sentence, thereby ensuring longer imprisonment. For example, committing a robbery while armed carried a higher sentence than committing a robbery while unarmed, and first time felons began receiving shorter sentences than repeat felons who committed the same crime.
  • Three Strikes Law, 1994: Voters approved the Three Strikes Law in 1994, and the law’s primary aim was to prevent repeat offences. Felons with one previous serious or violent felony conviction who committed any new felony (not necessarily serious or violent) would receive a prison sentence that was twice the length that would otherwise be assigned. Felons with two previous serious or violent felonies would generally be sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years for a new conviction. Additionally, the law also limited opportunities to reduce the prison term through good behavior, and for those convicted of serious or violent felonies, it eliminated alternatives to imprisonment such as community services and half-way houses. This law, in conjunction with reduced access to rehabilitation programs, contributed to an increase in California’s prison population.[32]
  • Marsy’s Law, 2008: Also known as the “Victim’s Bill of rights,” Marsy’s Law allowed crime victims to speak at parole board hearings. This law also restricts “substantial reduction of sentence” by early release of criminals under prison population reduction measures.[33] The law increases the length of time required to pass before an inmate can reapply for parole from 1-5 years to 3-15 years for those sentenced to life in prison. Early estimates expect this law to reduce the chances of release on parole.[34]


In sum, our analysis of these two program areas yields the following major trends:

  • Higher education’s share of the state budget has been consistently declining over the past 30 years. Corrections’ share of the budget has been consistently increasing over the same period.
  • The population growth rate has within corrections far exceeded that of the general population, and has therefore placed a heavy strain on the State budget.
  • Whereas prison guard salaries were subject to periods of sustained salary increases for the better part of 30 years, faculty salaries saw only weak growth during the 1980s and 1990s, and they experienced a real decline during the 2000s.
  • Although corrections’ funding from the State survived most previous economic downturns unscathed, and even increased during some downturns, higher education always experienced cuts in its State funding during those periods. The years since the onset of the most recent recession have resulted in a decline in state funding for both program areas.
  • The inmate population increase has been the key factor for increased spending on corrections.


The Timeline

We chose 1980 as the starting point of our analysis because the most comprehensive data sets were available only from 1980.  1980 also marked the creation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) (then known as Youth and Adult Correctional Agency) in 1979. Prior to 1980, in the State budget, corrections information was reported as a part of Health and Welfare Agency.

Sources of Data

Most of the data used in this report originated from California’s state budgets published by the Department of Finance and the “Wages and Salaries Supplement” presented alongside the budget. We used the most updated data available for a given year. Therefore, the figures pertaining to 1980 are taken from the 1982 budget because those figures are updated after 1980 to reflect actual expenditures rather than estimates. The remaining higher education data is referenced from resources published by the individual universities (UC Office of the President, California Community College Chancellor’s Office and California State University) and the California Post-secondary Education Commission. For corrections data, we also referenced reports published by the CDCR.  Inflation adjusted figures are listed in 2011 dollars, and were adjusted using the CPI published by the California Department of Finance ( The full list of sources used is available at the end of this appendix.

Data Limitations

In the few cases of missing data, we used estimated figures for that given year cited in the previous year’s budget. For example, because the state budget uses a less detailed format in 1993, for 1991, we used the State-estimated figures for 1991 data cited in the 1992 budget (listed in the budget as “estimated”; this was also done for 2011 figures).  In several other cases, we used ratios of change from preceding and succeeding years to approximate the numbers. Because the 2012 enacted budget depends so heavily on the outcome of the November 2012 ballot, we limited our time frame to 2011.

The Variables

We use “higher education” as an umbrella term for the combination of University of California, California State University and California Community College systems.  We excluded UC Hastings College of Law, California Maritime Academy (until 1996[35]), UC College of Regenerative Medicine, UC teaching hospitals and Department of Energy Labs in the UC system. We did this in order to keep the focus on general post-secondary education.  The excluded institutions maintain distinct financial systems and, in some cases, are primarily devoted to service and contract work. Similarly, for corrections, we excluded agencies like Board of Corrections (renamed as CDCR Administration after 2005 reorganization), Youth Offender Parole Board (renamed as Board of Parole Hearings), Corrections Standard Authority, and other small boards.

Similarly, we used “corrections” as an umbrella term for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) since 2005 and all youth and adult correction agencies prior to 2005.[36] The report only considers the State correctional system and does not include the network of facilities maintained by counties for lower-level offenders. With the present Realignment initiative, this limited focus can mask a transfer of inmates and responsibilities to a growing county jail system as the State system shrinks.

Student Population

The student populations are represented as Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students.[37] For UC, the data includes general campus graduate and undergraduate students, excluding the “health science” students. Health science represents medicine, medical education, dentistry, pharmacy, public health, optometry and veterinary medicine. UC campuses with teaching hospitals receive a higher proportion of their revenue from federal funding than campuses without medical schools, and they also earn higher revenues from non-medical sales. Therefore, to maintain uniformity, we have excluded the figures pertaining to medical and health science studies. For CSU and CCC, the figures include all enrolled undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students.

Felon Population

The felon population includes inmates, parolees and juvenile inmates, and it was calculated on full-time occupancy basis.[38] The term “inmate” refers to felons housed in State prisons, as well those in contracted beds in county jails and out-of-state prisons. The term “parolee” refers to adult parolees, juvenile parolees and all felons in community correctional facilities (CCF). In aggregate charts, “inmates” includes both adult and juvenile inmates unless specifically stated otherwise. The “per-person” numbers include only the inmate population and exclude all parolees.

University Staff & Faculty

The term “Faculty” includes all tenure-track positions and positions classified as “Lecturer” and “Instructor.” All other university personnel have been categorized as “Staff.” Because personnel data for CCC is not available for years prior to 2000, all system-aggregate faculty and staff ratios include only UC and CSU figures. The breakdown figures include those from CCC for the years they are available. The term “Faculty Salaries” uses average annual salary and does not include benefits, but it does reflect temporary adjustments in total pay such as furloughs. The system comparison salary graph (Figure 15) uses average CSU faculty salary only.

Corrections Staff and Security

“Prison Guards” represent staff employed in the capacity of security services personnel in adult and juvenile correctional facilities (classified as “Security” in the Salary and Wage supplement to the budget); they include a very small number of staff who are not actually officers. Staff figures include all other personnel, including non-security employees at juvenile correctional facilities, but exclude CCF numbers. Average guard salary figures were computed by aggregating salary expenditure of individual prisons and dividing them by the sum of total security personnel years for each prison. We have limited our data for the salary comparison to adult correctional facilities only. Hence, the term “Average Security Salary” indicates average salary figures for security personnel employed in adult correctional facilities. These numbers include overtime pay but do not reflect other forms of compensation such as benefits.


The state funding data is taken from the charts maintained by Budget Operations Support Unit of the Department of Finance.[39] The data for total funds for each system (namely UC, CSU, CCC and CDCR) has also been taken from the state budget and include all revenues sources. We have limited our research to only agencies that are directly responsible for the intended “beneficiaries” of that particular system (see description of Variables above).

Calculation of ratios

Our analysis includes a number of ratios. The “expenditure per student” ratio uses the sum of total expenditures for each college system divided by the aggregate student population in the three systems combined. The breakdown ratio uses total included funds for each college system divided by its respective student population.  The “expenditure per inmate” ratio was calculated using total annual expenditures for CDCR divided by the total number of inmates in the system that year. These figures also include juvenile inmates but exclude parolees and CCF population. The population ratio graphs are presented on natural log scale.


1 “Governor’s Budget Summary, 2012-13 Budget, Department of Finance,” (5 Jan. 2012) <>.

2 New York and New Jersey have higher per-capita cost of incarceration with $60,076 and $54,865 respectively. Henrichson, Delany, “The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers”, Vera Institute of Justice (Jan 2012, p. 10), <>.

3 Johnson, Reyes, and Ezekiel "Defunding higher education: What Are the Effects on College Enrollment?”, Public Policy Institute of California, (May 2012) <>.

4 Hemmila, Donna, "Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Guarantee Funds for UC", University of California-Office of the President Integrated Communications (June 2010) <>.

5 "Does the State Spend More on Corrections or higher education?" Legislative Analyst's Office, (Dec 2009) <>.

6 Further, 1980 also marked the separation of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (then known as Youth and Adult Correctional Agency) from the Department of Health and Welfare Agency.  See Appendix for more information about the data sets used for this report.

7 “General Fund History: Revenues and Transfers vs. Expenditures”, California Department of Finance, (2012), <>.

8 This increase is often justified as a response to increasing crime rates during the 1980s.  See "Most Recent Statistical Crime Chart: California Crimes 1983-2009”, Office of Attorney General, (2010),  <>.

9 These sums are listed as “0995 Reimbursements” in the State budgets.

10 "Annual Digest of Legislation”, California State Senate, (2009), <>.

11 Historical Fee Perspective, The California State University, (2011), <>;

"UC Mandatory Student Charge Levels", Budget and Capital Resources, UC Office of the President, (Dec 2011), <>;

"Impact of Budget Cuts on the California Community Colleges & Value of the System to California." California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, (2012), <>.

12 "The 2012-13 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis", Legislative Analyst's Office, (6 Feb, 2012), <>

13 United States 2010 Census, <>

14 “BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA, et al. v. PLATA et al.,”, Supreme Court of The United States, (2010), <>.

15 "The 2012-13 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis Refocusing CDCR After the 2011 Realignment ", Legislative Analyst's Office, (6 Feb, 2012), <> ;

Editorial. "Governor, Stop Stalling on the Prisons." Los Angeles Times, (14 Aug, 2012), <,0,566706.story>.

16 Palomino, Joaquin, "How California's Prison Population Exploded", Stanford Law School News Center, (9 Apr, 2012), <>

17‘Excess inmate population’ refers to the inmate population growth over and above the growth of the California population, which was 50% in that period.  In contrast, 16% of the increase can be attributed to growing inmate healthcare costs for that period.

18 Most Recent Statistical Crime Chart: “California Crimes 1983-2009”, Office of Attorney General, (2010), <>.

19 “California Youth Crime Declines: The Untold Story”, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, (Sept 2006), <>.

20 Wilson & Petersilia, “Crime and Public Policy,” (edited, 2011).

21 “These offenders represent less than one percent of the 195,000 youth arrests made each year”, 2011-12 Budget Summary, Department of Finance”, (5 Jan. 2012), <>.

22 Polyakov, Mike, "Priorities Re-examined: A Study of University of California Finances 2004-11”, California Common Sense, (Apr 2012)


23 "Indeterminate Sentencing At A Glance.", <>.

24 “2011 Adult Institutions Outcome Evaluation Report, California Department of Corrections And Rehabilitation, (Nov 2011), <>;

Grattet, Petersilia, and Lin, Parole Violations and Revocations in California, p. 5, National Criminal Justice Reference Center, (Oct 2008), <>.

25 Faculty Salaries at California’s Public Universities: 2007-08, California Post-Secondary Education Commission, (June 2007),  <>.

26 Polyakov 2012.

27 "Correctional Officer Pay, Benefits, and Labor Relations", Legislative Analyst's Office, (Feb 2008), <>.

28 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Correctional Officers", U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (Apr 2012), <>: The comparison is not adjusted for cost of living, which is difficult to obtain for a state, but that does not explain the two-fold difference.

29 "A Master Plan for higher education in California, 1960-1975", University of California Office of the President (1960), <>.

30 Lipson, and Peterson, “California Justice Under Determinate Sentencing: A Review and Agenda for Research”, California Board of Prison Terms,(June 1980), <>.

31 Geissler, Lauren, “Creating and Passing a Successful Sentencing Commission in California”, Stanford Law School, (Jan 2006), <>;

Palomino, Joaquin, "How California's Prison Population Exploded", Stanford Law School News Center, (9 Apr, 2012), <>.

32 “The ‘Three Strikes and You're Out’ Law's Impact on State Prisons: An Update", Legislative Analyst's Office, (Oct 1999), <>.

33 "Proposition 9: Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law", Legislative Analyst's Office, (Sept 2008), <>.

34 Weisberg, Mukamal, and Segall, “Life in Limbo: An Examination of Parole Release for Prisoners Serving Life Sentences with the Possibility of Parole in California”, Stanford Criminal Justice Center, Stanford Law School, (Sept 2011), <>.

35 California Maritime Academy became the 22nd campus of CSU in 1996 and thereafter was not reported separately in the budget

36 In 2005,all agencies previously listed under Youth & Adult Corrections were consolidated into the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)

37 A Full Time Equivalent student is defined as a student taking the maximum course load offered by the institution per year, hence a student taking half the allowed number of courses is counted as 0.5 FTE

38 CDCR defines ‘Average daily population (ADP)’ as average population for a stated population for a specified time period

39 "California Budget Information" California Department of Finance, <>

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