Shifting Costs, Releasing Prisoners Helps Balance a Budget

Here are a couple of ways the state of California is reaching that “balanced budget” we hear so much about: cutting courts and shifting prison populations to local jails. The website has a well-sourced story out of San Mateo that illustrates how the problems go hand in hand, although typically we’re seeing the civil courts take more cuts than the criminal courts – likely because plenty of constitutional guarantees dominate criminal cases.
San Mateo is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the state, San Mateo Presiding Judge Robert Foiles told the website. They also noted a scary fact from that recent survey of trial courts for the state Judicial Council, which administers the courts: 11 of the 48 counties that responded reported they weren’t able to process domestic violence temporary restraining orders on the same day they’re filed.
Here’s the background for San Mateo: Over the past five years, trial courts throughout the state have had their budgets slashed by about $1 billion because of the state’s fiscal crisis. Before the cuts San Mateo County had $12 million in reserve. They are now down to $1.2 million. The governor’s proposed budget for this year would mean another $4.5 million budget shortfall. The court has cut more than 30 percent of its workforce. If the Governor’s proposed budget passes, they will have to shutter the central courthouse and reduce the South San Francisco courthouse to two judges – who will only hear the most serious cases.
We perhaps treat civil and criminal courts as different worlds, and this report shows the interaction. Read it here.