For the past six years, more out-of-state parolees have come to California than have left for other states.
Each one, who committed a crime elsewhere but is allowed to come to this state, must be supervised by parole agents paid for by California taxpayers.
That's costing California millions of dollars, at a time when police officers are being laid off and prison inmates are being released early due to massive budget deficits.
Nobody seems to have noticed the discrepancy, which is currently on track to cost California $2.4 million this year alone - or more than $24 million over the next decade. That figure doesn't count the people who commit new crimes and are sent to California jails and prisons, where incarceration can cause costs to balloon.
"I'm mortified," San Joaquin County District Attorney Jim Willett said upon hearing of California's discrepancy. "I at least thought our import/export of felons would be an economic wash, not a loss."
It's a budget leak nobody seems to have noticed.
Local legislators and corrections officials haven't looked at the issue. And apparently nobody has suggested having each state pay for its own parolees' supervision, regardless of where they are living.
Meanwhile another big state, Texas, has significantly lower parole costs but still saved more than $1.7 million last fiscal year because more parolees left than entered the state, according to figures provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Two convicted kidnappers
Parolees are sometimes allowed to leave states where they committed an offense if they have family and ties elsewhere, where they can have financial and mental support. It's all coordinated through the Interstate Compact Program, which has been in place since 1937.
But sometimes, the arrangement can blow up and cause financial burden for the state willing to accept the parolees.
Charles Peck Jr. in a July photo at the San Joaquin County Jail. He is facing charges of torture, domestic violence and false imprisonment.
An older, undated Kansas prison photo of Charles Peck Jr. He spent 21 years in prison for kidnapping and robbery.
Consider the case of Charles Peck, who spent 21 years of a "life" sentence in Kansas for kidnapping and robbery. After being paroled in Kansas, he was allowed to move to his home state of California because he had family in Lodi.
Now he is facing felony charges of torture, false imprisonment and domestic violence against his girlfriend, who testified at a court hearing last month that he wrapped a chain around her neck and beat her in their Acampo home. She escaped after several days and flagged down a passing motorist.
Peck's previous convictions and the torture charge alone could send him to a California prison for life if he is convicted.
It currently costs $47,102 per year to house prison inmates, according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office. Peck is now 51; if he were to spend the next two decades in prison, he alone would cost taxpayers nearly $1 million in current dollars.
That doesn't include the costs associated with his prosecution and defense. Peck appeared in court Friday, and a trial date is tentatively scheduled for mid-October.
And there is the matter of Phillip Garrido, who Californian parole agents supervised for 10 years, though he was convicted of a Nevada kidnapping and rape.
Garrido was convicted in 1977 of kidnapping a woman and taking her across the Nevada state line, and he was sentenced to federal prison. Upon his release, he was turned over to Nevada prison officials, because the same victim's rape had been handled by state prosecutors.
When he was released from Nevada state prison, Garrido was still under federal parole and was allowed to move to Antioch, where his mother owned a home. Then his federal parole ended in 1999 and he fell to Nevada's parole department, and California agreed to take over supervision.
At that point, investigators believe, young South Lake Tahoe kidnap victim Jaycee Lee Dugard had already been forced to live with Garrido for eight years.
Now, people can only speculate about what might have happened had California parole officials refused to accept Garrido's case and he had been forced to move his family out of Antioch.
It took another 10 years for Dugard to be eventually found.
The cost of supervision
What is not in question is the fact that California residents have paid for parole supervision of Peck and Garrido. Both were convicted of kidnappings in other states, and both were allowed to have their parole transferred to California.
"There may not be a solution for every problem, but (lawmakers and prison officials) should be looking at this kind of thing," said Kris Vosburgh with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Vosburgh, like every person contacted for this article, hadn't heard of the cost deficit for parolee supervisions.
"Is it our obligation in this state to supervise those parolees?" he asked.
At the time of Peck's July 5 arrest, he was one of 1,467 out-of-state parolees who were being supervised in California, according to weekly population statistics kept by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The average parolee costs $4,500 a year to supervise, according to corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton, which means those parolees cost an extra $6.6 million annually.
On the flip side, at that time 959 California parolees were being supervised in other states, reducing that figure by $4.3 million.
So it was costing California residents an extra $2.3 million.
But that's not the bottom line.
A News-Sentinel analysis of the corrections department's population reports shows that the cost discrepancy has been steadily growing since July 2003.
In November 2001, the earliest reports the CDCR has on its Web site, California was sending more parolees out of state than it was receiving - 1,753 left, while 1,383 entered - meaning that the state was saving money.
Those numbers began dropping, and by the week of July 30, 2003, six fewer parolees had left California than had entered. A year later, that difference was 100.
By Sept. 9, the most recent statistics available Friday, the spread had grown to a difference of 539.
If that number were to hold steady, it would cost taxpayers $24.2 million over the next decade. If the past six years are any indication of the rising cost deficit related to parolees, the actual dollar figure will be much higher.
Possible explanations, solutions
The largest factor in the parole price increase is the diminishing number of California parolees who are leaving the state.
One explanation is a change earlier this year regarding how long convicts remain on parole, said Thornton, the corrections spokeswoman.
Under state law, someone convicted of a non-violent crime may be discharged from parole after one year if no parole violations have been lodged. Parole officials are now following that law more closely than previously, and the number of parolees has dropped from 124,250 last September to 111,098 this month.
So, Thornton said, some of the parolees allowed to leave the state have since had their parole discharged while they were gone.
In other words, enforcing that law has saved other states some money.
One solution could be to simply make each state pay for their own parolees' supervision, regardless of where they are living.
That idea would likely be bogged down in bureaucratic wrangling, though, because the cost of parole varies from state to state.
In Texas, parole supervision costs $3.74 per day, according to Jason Clark, spokesman for that state's Department of Criminal Justice. California's rate is $12.33 per day.
A Pew Center study released in March showed that such daily rates range from $3.51 to $13.28 depending on the state - though those numbers sometimes include probation supervision if states don't separate parole from probation.
As for the interstate parole transfer system itself, that has been in place for some seven decades.
"The whole point of parole is to reintegrate paroles into communities, and oftentimes they can do that with their own families," Thornton said.
If a parolee has no family around and has low odds of getting a job, there is less incentive to avoid committing crimes, said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for Florida's Department of Corrections.
There is probably some peace of mind for victims who learn that the offender has moved out of state.
Under a newly passed California law, victims now have more rights and can have some input on whether an offender will be paroled back to the same area where the victim and family still live.
Compared to other budget woes in the state, the cost of out-of-state parolee supervision may not be a huge amount. But years ago, when Gov. Pete Wilson referred to a relatively low-cost matter as "peanuts," the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association pointed out that "there are boxcars of peanuts," spokesman Vosburgh recalled.
"The state needs to be more aggressive about all of it," he said. "Yes, they should set priorities, but they should set an example."