Thomas Hawk/FlickrGov. Jerry Brown ordered the state's prison office to trim more than 400 positions to save $30 million.
Calling the move "long overdue," Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday ordered more than 400 administrative positions permanently cut at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – a move the governor's office said would save taxpayers $30 million.
Brown said that the "restructuring" would be more efficient while at the same time cutting operating costs. Matthew Cate, the governor's cabinet secretary for the corrections department, said the "new executive structure is designed to create a leaner organization, clarify functions and responsibilities, delegate decision-making authority and eliminate duplicative functions."
A quarter of prison headquarter positions – about 1,000 employees – have been cut in the last 18 months. In the latest round, more than 100 managers and supervisors and 32 executive-level positions – including the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and five chief deputy secretaries – were eliminated.
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Roughly two-thirds of the positions were already vacant, said Deputy Press Secretary Elizabeth Ashford, adding that layoff notices to the remaining 133 employees were distributed starting last Friday.
The layoff process varies from position to position in terms of when employees will be let go, something Ashford said could take up to six weeks. Roughly 2,750 headquarter positions will be left in the greater Sacramento area after the cuts, down from 3,100 and the equivalent to 2005 staffing levels.
"These are real cuts, as you would expect with major restructuring," Ashford said.
She said that the projected $30 million in savings is only a small chunk of the more than $194 million the prison system must trim from its budget as part of savings requested in Brown's May 16 revision of the state budget.
In January, Brown proposed spending $9.1 billion on the state's prison system, up from $8.9 billion the year before. Ashford said it remains unclear where the remaining $164 million will be cut this time around.
Clark Kelso, the federal receiver who oversees health care services in the state's 33 prisons, said that the restructuring would not directly affect how his staff works with Cate and his staff. California's prison population hovers around 168,000 inmates, down from a record high in 2006.
"The bottom line is that he (Cate) is making some tough decisions, but we're going to continue to support what (the corrections department) is doing," Kelso said.
News of the layoffs comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires the California prison system to reduce the number of state prisoners by roughly 37,000 in the next two years. One proposal would transfer low-level offenders to county jails to serve the remaining days of their sentences.
Ashford said she was optimistic that the current reduction in management staff would not affect the oversight of released inmates.
"Obviously, there's a lot at play here, and these certainly aren't easy decisions," she said. "It's a balancing act."
The full list of eliminated positions was not immediately available yesterday.