Brown Asks Supreme Court To Reject Federal Prisoner Release Order
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court over a federal court-ordered reduction of the state prison population, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/10).
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.
If the state does not comply with the order by the end of the year, officials will have to release inmates based on a list of "low-risk" offenders, according to the judges.
Details of Appeal
In the new filing, state lawyers argue that Brown's administration already has reduced the prison population by 46,000 inmates since 2006. They say that few low-risk inmates remain in the prison system who could be released to meet the population cap.
They also argue that prison health care in the state now exceeds constitutional standards (Thompson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 8/9).
The filing states that there is no "evidence that releasing these inmates would enable the state to provide a constitutionally sufficient level of medical and mental health care that it is not already providing, or could not provide, through other means."
In addition, the appeal argues that the judges who issued the prison reduction order showed "conspicuous insensitivity" to the state's right to govern its own corrections system.
The appeal also questions the public safety implications of a "massive prisoner release."
According to "PolitiCal," the case likely would not be heard until next year if the Supreme Court decides to accept it ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/10).
Judges Clarify Brown's Authority
In related news, federal judges on Friday told Brown that he has the authority to move inmates into private or publicly owned facilities within California but not to send more prisoners out of state.
In an effort to comply with the prison population reduction order, the administration plans on "slowing the return" of 3,600 inmates that currently are housed in private prisons in other states. Judges said that Brown could carry out that portion of his plan but that his authority "does not apply to transferring more prisoners to out-of-state facilities" (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.