The prison systems, and lack of judicial “options” in right-wing idiot areas, where laws are black and white, and stupid all over, makes the U.S. a laughingstock to even some “repressive” regimes! “Three strikes” is stupid if anything other than violent felonies are involved, and yes, most such do NOT limit to said violent crimes and misdemeanors DO count!
As to prisons themselves, states that have turned the system over to privates, like Texas and Arizona, have higher escape rates, and haven’t really reduced costs, just salaries for guards, while the operators of the contract rake in huge profits. Being a prison guard sucks as a job, and paying minimum wage guarantees you get the worst of the worst taking them. California may indeed pay more, but it retains folks psychologically capable of doing the job right.