Brown Seeks Stay of Federal Court Order To Release 9,600 Prisoners
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration filed a request seeking a stay of the federal court-ordered release of nearly 10,000 state prisoners until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case, the Los Angeles Times reports (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 6/28).
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.
As of April, the prison population was at 150% of capacity, or 9,000 more inmates than the court-ordered cap.
On May 2, Brown filed a proposal to comply with the population cap.
State officials said that they could remove about 7,000 inmates by December under the plan.
Details of Recent Ruling
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 (California Healthline, 6/25).
Details of Brown's Request for Stay of Ruling
In the request filed on Friday, 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 states that "public interest weighs heavily in favor of granting the stay" and that the state has "a strong likelihood of success on the merits."
The request was filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and federal judges in Sacramento and Oakland (Los Angeles Times, 6/28).
Brown said that if the request for a delay is denied, the state will seek a stay from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
If the three judges and the Supreme Court deny the state's request, Brown said he will comply with the release order (Thompson, AP/U-T San Diego, 6/28).
Prisoner Advocates' Response
Don Spector -- lead attorney for the Prison Law Office -- said the filing is "another meritless stalling tactic."
Spector said that he is "very doubtful" that the state will be granted a stay. However, he said that if the delay is granted, "the state wouldn't have to comply" with the prison reduction order "until the Supreme Court rules, which could be a year from now" (Los Angeles Times, 6/28).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.