Negotiations on Prison Overcrowding Have Failed, Judges Say

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On Monday, a panel of federal judges said that California officials and inmate advocates have failed to agree to a long-term solution to prison overcrowding in the state, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/13).

Background

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state 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 2013, three federal judges ordered Brown to release about 9,600 inmates -- or 8% of the inmate population -- by 2014.

Last month, the judges gave California until April 18 to reduce the prison population.

However, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) based his fiscal year 2014-2015 budget proposal on the assumption that the court would grant California an additional two years to comply with the order. If the judges do not give the state a deadline extension, the budget plan calls for California to spend $315 million to find additional housing for inmates (California Healthline, 1/10).

Details of Judges' Announcement

In a statement on Monday, the judges said, "This court has repeatedly extended the meet-and-confer process ... in hopes that the parties could reach agreement," adding, "It now appears that no such agreement will be reached."

The judges said they will decide within 30 days whether to grant the state a two-year extension to reduce the prison population.

If an extension is not granted, the state will have to reduce prison overcrowding by a late April or early May deadline.

Reaction

Deborah Hoffman, a spokesperson for Brown, in an email said officials are "hopeful the court will recognize that the state has made significant reforms to our criminal justice system and will allow us an extension so we can build upon these landmark reforms."

However, Don Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, said he opposes an additional extension to reduce the prison population.

"The overcrowding creates unconstitutional conditions which harm my clients, and the sooner the crowding is reduced the easier it will be for the state to provide adequate health care for the prisoners," he said (Bernstein, Reuters, 1/14).

Broadcast Coverage

Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of the overcrowding are provided below.


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