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California’s unemployment rate fell to 11.1% in December from 11.3% the previous month, but the state didn’t budge from second place for the worst joblessness in the nation.
Only the neighboring state of Nevada posted a higher rate with 12.6%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.
Other states in the worst five were Rhode Island with 10.8%, Michigan with 10.5% and the District of Columbia with 10.4%.
North Dakota posted the lowest unemployment rate at 3.3%, followed by Nebraska at 4.1%, South Dakota at 4.1%, Minnesota at 5.7% and Utah at 6%.
In all, unemployment decreased in 37 states and the District of Columbia, three states had increases and 10 remained unchanged, the bureau said.
The largest month-over-month hike in the number of jobs created in December was in Texas with 20,200 and California with 10,700.
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut state prison spending next fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade, a departure from the goals of recent administrations, which consistently increased corrections spending and pushed for prison expansion.
Brown’s budget would save California $1.1 billion on housing inmates and hundreds of millions more by allowing the state to halt some prison construction – savings largely due to his administration’s recent overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.
General fund spending on prisons nearly doubled under Brown’s Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from $5.2 billion in 2004 to $9.5 billion in 2011, when Brown, a Democrat, took office. The increase in spending was largely caused by an exploding inmate population and a court order to improve medical care in prisons.
The general fund is backed by statewide taxes and pays for most of the government’s basic programs, including schools, police, welfare services and other programs. A cut in prison spending makes more dollars available for other programs.
“We’re knocking it down, and we’ll knock it down further,” Brown said Friday of the prison budget. “A lot of the problems come from the fact that they built (too many) prisons in 20 years – it was too fast, they didn’t know what they were doing, and now we have to clean up that mess. We made good progress the first year.”
$1 billion savings
Under Brown’s spending proposal, released Jan. 5, general fund spending on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would decline from this year’s budget of $9.8 billion to $8.7 billion, largely because the state prison population has fallen nearly 1,000 a week since Oct. 1, when the state shifted responsibility for lower level offenders to county law enforcement, a policy known as realignment.
“I don’t think there’s any question we’ve turned a corner here … just by the fact that we are significantly reducing the prison population,” said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, a nonprofit that conducts policy analysis on criminal justice issues.
But Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, a former parole board chairman who has been a vocal critic of realignment, predicted the savings would not last, particularly without more investment in rehabilitative services for criminals. He said that counties will ultimately have to raise local taxes to fully pay for realignment, eliminating any savings for taxpayers.
“It’s frankly not a long-run savings for the state,” said Nielsen, of Gerber (Tehama County). “Corrections spending will go down a little and then creep back up.”
Just one year ago, California was grappling with a court order to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates and was moving forward with 13 construction projects to expand prison capacity.
Now, the prison population is at 130,000, a decrease of 11,000 in six months. State officials met the first benchmark set by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the prison population and say they are on track to meet the next one as well, as thousands of offenders that would have flowed into the overcrowded system are staying in county jails instead and being supervised by local probation officials rather than state parole officers.
In addition to halting construction projects, Brown next year wants to begin phasing out the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice and place the state’s most violent youth offenders in county facilities. And after years of cuts to rehabilitation programs in prisons, Brown wants lawmakers to restore about $100 million in funding for drug treatment, education and other services.
The governor’s budget proposal, like most criminal justice issues, has prompted mixed reactions.
Worries over funding