Brown Releases Plan To Move About 9,600 State Prisoners

TOPIC ALERT:

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced a plan to spend more than $1 billion over the next three years to move about 9,600 state inmates to private prisons and other facilities to comply with a federal court-ordered reduction of the state prison population, the Los Angeles Times reports (Megerian/York, Los Angeles Times, 8/27).

Background

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the prison system was needed after determining that an average of one inmate per week died as a result of medical malpractice or neglect.

In April, a panel of federal judges rejected Brown's request to end a court-mandated prison population cap. The judges ruled that the cap is necessary to address substandard conditions that have resulted in unconstitutionally poor inmate care.

On May 2, Brown filed a proposal to comply with the population cap.

In June, three federal judges rejected the plan, ordering Brown to release about 9,600 inmates -- or 8% of the inmate population -- by 2014.

The judges said that the state can use any method under its original plan to reduce the inmate population, but they suggested expanding the use of good behavior credits to expedite prisoner releases.

In July, Brown filed a request with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay of the order. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Brown's request.

Brown's administration then filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court over the reduction order while developing plans to comply with it (California Healthline, 8/12).

Details of Plan

The plan proposed on Tuesday would:

  • Shift thousands of inmates to privately owned facilities both in state and out of state;
  • Reopen city-owned detention centers in Shafter and Taft (Los Angeles Times, 8/27); and
  • Suspend the planned closure of a rehabilitation center in Norco (Office of the Governor release, 8/27).

The plan is included in a budget bill that is slated for discussion on Thursday by the Assembly budget committee. Lawmakers have less than three weeks to approve or reject the plan before the Legislature adjourns on Sept. 13 (Siders/Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee, 8/28).

If lawmakers fail to act on the measure, federal judges have the authority to override state law and order the early release of prisoners, according to the AP/Miami Herald (Thompson, AP/Miami Herald, 8/27).

Comments From Brown, Supporters

During a news conference on Tuesday, Brown called the plan "sensible" and "prudent" (Sacramento Bee, 8/28).

Brown said the proposal will give the state "some breathing room so that we can demonstrate to the courts that our [prison] health care and our [prison] mental health care meet" constitutional standards.

"Public safety is a priority, and we'll take care of it ... [t]he money is there," Brown added (AP/Miami Herald, 8/27).

Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) accompanied Brown during the news conference and said that the plan would prevent the release of "a single additional prisoner."

In addition, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (Diamond Bar) said that he supports the plan, adding, "We can't allow dangerous inmates on our streets."

District attorneys, police chiefs, county sheriffs, prison guards and other groups also praised the plan.

Opposition to Plan

Meanwhile, Don Specter -- an attorney with the Prison Law Office -- said leasing additional prison space would be "an incredible waste of hundreds of millions of dollars for no benefit to public safety" (Los Angeles Times, 8/27).

In addition, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called the proposal "a plan with no promise and no hope," adding, "As the population of California grows, it's only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow" (Whitcomb, Reuters, 8/27).

Steinberg said he on Wednesday will release his own plan to reduce prison overcrowding (Los Angeles Times, 8/27).

A spokesperson for Steinberg said that his plan has the support of all Democrats in the state Senate and that it would cost "much less" than Brown's proposal (Sacramento Bee, 8/28).

Broadcast Coverage

Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of Brown's announcement are provided below.

Steve Gaylord
Knowing that corruption runs rampant in this country, one has to wonder how many millions of dollars is Brown and his cohorts being paid - by the private prison industry.
Theresa Sanchez
Is he really serious? Expecting hard working Americans to pay 1 Billion dollars!!! For 9,000 people, is he on some type of medication that may be altering his cognitive decision making? I mean really! Let me repeat A BILLION DOLLARS!! For 9,000 inmates who DO NOT need relocating, but services and resources by the billions!!! How dare this man take any moral, ethical or hard working position in this country, to lead others.
Patricia Morris-Gooding
It is immoral to spend the taxpayer dollar on private prisons. The governor and the legislators need to look at prison reform rather than finding a way to line their cronies pockets. Early release should be applied to the elderly and medically compromised prisoners and save the tax dollars that would have been spent on private prisons.
Steve Gaylord
The problem with the private prison industry is that, in reality, actually costs the taxpayer more money. Also it takes jobs away from the public sector - giving "corporate" a cheap, slave-labor pool from which to pick from. More often than not, these prisoners face more austere measures such as sub-optimal medical care and nutrition. The winners are corrupt corporations and politicians. The losers are taxpayers and the incarcerated.
William Hughes
Most of these fellows want to know where the liquor store is upon release. As an former LCSW, I have no problem with telling them, but seriously, the APA/NASW "Key Word" is "MESS."

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