2023: California Closes Prisons, Transforms Others

The long, loud fights over prison closures in 2022 spilled into 2023 as communities dependent on prison dollars continued to argue for their own survival. Despite protests, lobbying and lawsuits by the affected cities, California is following through on plans to close a total of four prisons.

With inmate populations still falling, the Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report in February that said the state could close five more by 2027.

Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to transform San Quentin State Prison into a “center for innovation focused on education, rehabilitation and breaking cycles of crime” in an effort to reduce recidivism, but details remain scant on what that looks like.

Attorney General Rob Bonta’s unit that investigates police shootings of unarmed people had ruled on just four of its 44 cases by November 2023 as the families of people who were killed started to give up hope that the Justice Department would ever get them a resolution. The Justice Department conceded that it had not even logged every call from a police agency reporting the shooting of an unarmed person.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis organized the flights of two groups of migrants into California, prompting Newsom to refer to him as a “small, pathetic man” and insinuated that the state of California could pursue kidnapping charges. The tête-à-tête is expected to continue with a debate on Nov. 30.

Later in the summer, debate over a fairly minor bill log-jammed in an Assembly committee exploded into a three-day maelstrom in which a legislator reported getting death threats. The bill would have reclassified human trafficking of a minor for purposes of a commercial sex act as a “serious felony,” something that was proposed and rejected nine times before 2023. Newsom later signed the bill into law.

After consecutive years of record deaths in the San Diego jail system, a powerful legislator proposed putting “detention monitors” in each facility in the state. That plan was watered down significantly after opposition from law enforcement groups. The final version of the bill instead created a new position on the Board of State and Community Corrections that reviews in-custody deaths.

Major issues for 2024: In 2024, criminal justice reform advocates have pledged to bring back bills vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as the governor himself has moderated his enthusiasm for far-reaching changes to California’s criminal justice system. Prisons in Blythe and California City will wind down operations as Newsom looks to shutter even more correctional facilities and yards. Lobbyists for law enforcement will keep a close eye on the waning post-George Floyd legislative enthusiasm for major changes to policing after a year in which they quietly watered down or killed two bills that would have affected prison transfers to immigration facilities and a major overhaul of how counties oversee their sheriffs.

Correction: The Newsom administration has closed or is in the process of closing four state prisons.

Nigel Duara is a reporter with CalMatters.


  1. California City provides the L.A. and greater developed So-Cal area with a homeless site. then.

    Don’t count on something like that happening, though. It’s also too remote for many developers to get their shills and stooges to insist on massive new hamster housing being built there, instead.

  2. So much for jobs in California City. They employed a lot of people. But, to be expected as a person that was CONVICTED and REQUIRED to PAY RESTITUTION to us for an attempted burglary at our residence in California City still lives in Cal City and was RELEASED by the probation department. I still kept in touch with the Probation Department and Cal City Police informing them that we want the restitution and where the person lives. That says a lot for the criminal system in the state. He was to do 6 months and was out in 6 DAYS. With us still waiting on the money owed.

  3. However, you shouldn’t put your hopes on it happening. Furthermore, several developers have used their shills and stooges to insist on building vast additional hamster homes there because of how isolated it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *