Prison overcrowding: Gov. Jerry Brown submits revised plan

A prison is seen.
May 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown is waiting to hear whether federal judges will accept his revised plan to cut crowding at state prisons.

Threatened with contempt of court, the Brown Administration submitted under protest a 46-page plan to relieve prison overcrowding. Brown hopes to win a delay, while appealing the original court ruling on overcrowding.

The state says California has already shed 42,000 inmates since 2006 and that the prison healthcare system is up to Constitutional standards. But the federal courts still demand that the population be reduced another 9,300 by the end of this year, a move that could jeopardize public safety.

"I'm disappointed that the judges have not taken an in-depth look at all we've done," said California Corrections Secretary Jeff Beard.

The plan mostly relies on finding more beds by renting space at the county jails or out-of-state prisons. It also increases good time credits so offenders could be released sooner. The state could expand the criteria for paroling the sick and elderly.

Inmate advocates and attorneys say the prison healthcare system still provides unconstitutional care and calls the plan inadequate. Without a long-term fix, they want Brown thrown in jail for failing to address the decades-long problem.

"I think it is 46 pages of excuses and whining," said Vanessa Nelson with Life Support Alliance. "If any of the rest of us had continually said to the court, 'Go away. We're not going to listen to you,' we would be in contempt. He is in contempt."

The Brown Administration admits the reduction plan is about 2,500 inmates short. As for the next key court filing, the state has to submit a list of low-risk offenders in the next several weeks. Judges can use it to order early releases.

It's an option if judges don't accept the plan. The problem is most low-risk offenders have already been shifted to county jails.

"That's a good point because the only remaining low-risk people that are left in the system are people that you might consider serious and violent offenders," said Beard.

Brown is hoping to avoid all this by winning a separate lawsuit that seeks to regain control of the prison system.

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