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California state legislators approved Thursday a $8.3 billion dollar program to construct facilities to provide 53,000 new prison and jail beds over the next five years, as part of an effort to alleviate California's overcrowded prisons. Lawmakers said that the plan will also dedicate more resources to rehabilitation and reduce California's 70 percent recidivism rate. The bill also gives the legislature "clear statutory authority to voluntarily and involuntarily transfer prisoners out-of-state for the next four years." A previous out-of-state transfer plan by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was struck down by a state court because California law prohibits the governor from contracting with private companies to perform jobs usually held by state employees.

California's prison system, originally designed for 100,000 inmates, currently houses 173,000 inmates and has resorted to housing approximately 17,000 inmates in temporary beds in locations like prison gymnasiums. In February, Schwarzenegger announced a plan to release prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes in response to various federal actions that could establish federal oversight of California's prison system if the overcrowding problem is not resolved.


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