SACRAMENTO (AP) — Thirteen years after California began exporting thousands of felons to private prisons across the nation, the last convict has boarded a bus back to California.

Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz called Tuesday a historic day.

He says it’s important to get inmates closer to family members to help with their rehabilitation.

To make room for returning inmates California shed nearly 50,000 inmates from its in-state prisons by easing criminal penalties and housing lower-level criminals in county jails.

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started sending inmates out of state in 2006. It was supposed to be a stopgap alternative to freeing inmates from prisons so crowded that inmates were bunked three-deep in gymnasiums and dayrooms.

At its peak, more than 10,000 inmates were housed in prisons in Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.

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