Brown Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Delay Order To Release Prisoners
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) filed a request in the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a federal court order to release about 9,600 state prisoners, the Los Angeles Times reports (McGreevy/St. John, Los Angeles Times, 7/10).
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.
Shortly after taking office in 2011, Brown implemented a plan to reduce the prison population by shifting many inmates from state prisons to county jails.
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.
In their ruling, the judges said Brown had provided "no convincing evidence" that prison overcrowding is no longer a problem.
On May 2, Brown filed a proposal to comply with the population cap.
Judges Order Release of Prisoners
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 Request for Stay of Ruling
Shortly after the June ruling, the Brown administration requested a stay of the order until the Supreme Court rules on the case.
In the request, Brown administration officials said that California will be "irreparably harmed absent a stay" because "the balance of hardships tips sharply in [the state's] favor."
The filing also stated that "public interest weighs heavily in favor of granting the stay" and that the state has "a strong likelihood of success on the merits."
Judges Deny Request for Stay of Ruling
This month, three federal judges denied Brown's request to delay the order.
The judges wrote that California has a "long history of ... noncompliance" with the four-year-old order to reduce the prison population.
"Until now, the state has insisted that it is unable (read unwilling) to comply with the population reduction order," they added (California Healthline, 7/8).
Brown Asks Supreme Court for Stay of Ruling
In a filing with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the state argues that it needs time to appeal the judges' decision and that to obey the prisoner release order would mean freeing "violent and serious offenders."
The filing states that the "court's latest orders will require the release of inmates ... [who] pose a substantial risk of committing new and violent crimes."
Deborah Hoffman -- a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections -- said, "We are confident that if the U.S. Supreme Court takes a look at the dramatic improvements in California's prison system, the justices will find we are providing constitutional care" to inmates (Los Angeles Times, 7/10).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.