Observers say that California might encounter resistance from federal judges in its bid to regain oversight of its prisons, the Sacramento Bee reports (Stanton, Sacramento Bee, 1/9).
About six years ago, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed federal receiver J. Clark Kelso to oversee the state's prison health care system after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of malpractice or neglect.
In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its inmate population to help improve health care.
In April 2012, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released a plan for reorganizing the state's prisons and ending federal oversight.
In October 2012, federal officials agreed to begin transferring select administrative functions of California's prison health care system to state officials.
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration filed a request for a federal court to drop its order for significant reductions in prison inmate populations.
The filing stated that California has:
- Reduced its inmate population by nearly 42,000 since 2006;
- Increased inmate capacity significantly through construction initiatives; and
- Made several improvements to prison medical and mental health systems.
In addition, the documents said that court-ordered reductions could force the state to release dangerous or violent inmates (California Healthline, 1/8).
Additional Comments From Brown
During a news conference on Tuesday, Brown said the federal oversight is "intrusive" and "nit-picky" (Siders, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 1/8).
He said, "We spent billions of dollars" to address federal court orders, adding that it "is now time to return control of our prison system to California" (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 1/8).
Observers Weigh In
Joan Petersilia -- a Stanford Law School professor and former corrections adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) -- said she thinks the court will respond "very negatively" to the Brown administration's request.
She said that although many observers "are actually quite pleased with the extent to which California has reduced its [prison] population," there is not enough known about the inmates who still are in prison and whether they would pose a threat to the public if they were released.
Will Matthews -- a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union -- said, "It is foolish to suggest that the over-incarceration crisis in California is over," adding, "We're at 145% of capacity, and that number speaks to the reality that the governor apparently is not willing to face" (Sacramento Bee, 1/9).