Calif. Granted Two Additional Years To Meet Prison Population Cap
On Monday, a panel of judges granted California two additional years to comply with a court-ordered cap on the state prison population, the Sacramento Bee's "Sacto911" reports (Stanton/Walsh, "Sacto911," Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
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. In December 2013, the judges gave California until April 18 to reduce the prison population (California Healthline, 1/14).
Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) asked a panel of federal judges to grant California two additional years to meet the order. Brown requested that the new deadline be Feb. 28, 2016. In addition, he suggested that the court could appoint a compliance officer who would determine which inmates to release if the state does not meet that deadline (California Healthline, 1/24).
Details of Ruling
In the ruling on Monday, the panel of judges gave the state until Feb. 28, 2016, to reduce prison overcrowding. However, the judges said no additional delays will be granted.
Under the ruling, the state will not be allowed to increase the number of California inmates housed in out-of-state correctional facilities ("Sacto911," Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
In addition, the judges also mandated the appointment of a compliance officer who can release inmates early if the state fails to meet certain benchmarks or the 2016 deadline (Thompson, "KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 2/10).
The judges said that they were "reluctant" to grant the extension but that the move "should bring to an end defendants' continual appeals and requests for modifications" of the court's original order ("Sacto911," Sacramento Bee, 2/10).
The state said it will work to reduce prison overcrowding over the next two years by:
- Expanding a Stockton medical facility, which will hold about 1,100 inmates with mental illnesses;
- Making about 350 nonviolent second-offenders eligible for parole after half of their sentence is served;
- Releasing nearly 1,600 inmates who meet certain criteria, such as having medical problems or being at least 60 years old and having served 25 years or more of their sentence; and
- Accelerating good-time credits for nonviolent offenders.
In a statement, Brown called the ruling "encouraging," adding, "The state now has the time and resources necessary to help inmates become productive members of society and make our communities safer" ("KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 2/10).
Reaction From Inmate Advocates
Michael Bien, a lawyer representing some of the inmates, said the extension "means two more years of suffering for inmates that should not have been granted" (Lovett, New York Times, 2/10).
However, Bien said, "The court is sending a message that there will be no more delays. There will be no more extensions, this is it, don't come back," adding, "I think the court is hoping that the state will now come into compliance but ... we are concerned with the amount of time it's going to take" (Quinton, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 2/10).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.