Gov. Brown Seeks Three-Year Delay on Prison Population Cap

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On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) asked federal judges to give the state three additional years to comply with a court-ordered reduction of the prison population, AP/U-T San Diego reports (Thompson, AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

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 June, three federal judges ordered Brown to release about 9,600 inmates -- or 8% of the inmate population -- by 2014 (California Healthline, 9/13).

Details of Compromise Plan, Extension Request

Under a compromise prison population reduction plan (SB 105) that Brown developed with Democratic lawmakers and signed last week:

  • Brown agreed to ask federal judges for an extension to comply with the population cap;
  • 2,500 state inmates will be sent to county jails, community correctional facilities and a private prison in the state;
  • No additional prisoners will be sent to out-of-state facilities; and
  • Funding for prisoner rehabilitation efforts will be increased by $100 million beginning July 1, 2014 (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

If federal judges reject the extension request, SB 105 requires state officials to automatically implement Brown's original inmate reduction plan, which 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; and
  • Suspend the planned closure of a rehabilitation center in Norco.

Brown's original plan would cost about $315 million through the end of this year (California Healthline, 9/13).

The state asked the judges to issue a decision by Sept. 27.

Comments from Calif. Officials

In the state's filing on Monday, officials said, "For prison population reduction measures to be effective and lasting, they cannot be unilaterally imposed," adding that "state prisons are just one part of the larger, interconnected criminal justice system" (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 9/16).

Officials also said that prison reforms will "take time to develop -- time that does not exist under the current end-of-the-year deadline" (Stanton/Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 9/17).

Jeffrey Beard -- secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said the compromise plan "will reduce recidivism, promote public safety and help divert inmates from our state prisons."

Beard also said that "these important initiatives will be delayed" if the judges reject the extension request (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

Reaction From Prisoners' Attorneys

Don Specter of the Prison Law Office called the move "very disappointing" (Los Angeles Times, 9/16).

Specter added, "There is no timetable, there's no promise of what programs will be in place when, all there is is a promise to talk some more even though they've had five years to evaluate these different alternatives."

Brown Signs Separate Prison Measure

In related news, Brown on Monday signed a measure (SB 260) that would speed up parole hearings for inmates who committed crimes when they were under age 18.

The measure -- introduced by state Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) -- is expected to help reduce the state prison population (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).


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