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first_imgLANCASTER – Standing in an overcrowded cell block next to makeshift double-bunked beds as the stench of body odor wafted about Friday, California’s head prison administrator said conditions at Lancaster’s state prison were an embarrassment. “This is inappropriate,” said James E. Tilton, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “An inmate should have an opportunity to serve his time, have productive activities and try to improve his life.” Inmates triple-bunked in a day room originally designed for recreation described their living conditions as deplorable. “It’s scary and dangerous,” said Jose Zavarra, a Salvadoran who said he was serving time on burglary charges. “There’s diseases all over the place here.” Tilton toured the facility to support Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prison-reform package, which features a $10.9 billion expansion program that its backers say is needed to fix a beleaguered system. The plan would add 78,000 beds to a jail and prison system the governor’s supporters say is desperately needed to keep potentially dangerous criminals behind bars. They cite statistics showing that 233,388 individuals avoided incarceration or were released early in 2005 because there was no room to house them. Lancaster’s 262-acre facility, designed to accommodate 2,300 inmates when it opened in 1993, currently houses 4,305, of which 450 live in emergency double- and triple-bunked beds in gyms, day rooms and in cellblocks amid conditions Tilton said were unsafe. California’s prison system, designed for 100,000 inmates, currently has a population of 174,000, with 17,000 inmates housed in temporary facilities. “If you want to give me the inmates, give me the budget,” Tilton said at a news conference after the tour. The plan includes an additional $41.1 million spending on anti-recidivism programs, including drug treatment, job training and housing assistance, and calls for $50 million to improve the adult probation program, focusing on 18- to 25-year-olds. The plan would also establish a commission to review sentencing guidelines. [email protected] (661) 267-7802160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more