California has a take-all-prisoners approach to ex-convicts, a policy so tough that more than half the inmates in state prisons are behind bars for violating parole, an Associated Press analysis has found.
More than 82 percent of these returned parolees are sent back to prison for less than a year, serving new sentences for such minor violations as being drunk in public, driving more than 50 miles from home or driving with a suspended license.
The policy has proven costly for state taxpayers - returning so many parolees for such short sentences accounts for more than 20 percent of California's prison spending, which has exceeded its budget by $1.58 billion over the past five years, the AP found.
The percentage of parolees in the state's prisons is eight times higher than that of Texas, which has nearly as many inmates as California. According to a 2002 study by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, California accounts for 42 percent of all parole violators returned to state prisons in the United States.