Calif. Lawmakers OK Compromise Plan To Reduce Inmate Population
The bill was developed Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Democratic lawmakers (Bernstein, Reuters, 9/12).
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 June, three federal judges ordered Brown to release about 9,600 inmates -- or 8% of the inmate population -- by 2014.
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.
In July, Brown filed a request with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay of the order. In August, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Brown's request.
The Brown administration then filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the order.
Details of Compromise Plan
Under the compromise plan passed this week:
- Brown will ask the judges for an extension to comply with the population cap; and
- $400 million will go toward prisoner rehabilitation efforts, such as mental health care.
The announcement did not specify how much additional time the administration would request to comply with the order.
If federal judges reject the extension request, the proposal requires state officials to automatically implement Brown's original plan, which would:
- Shift thousands of inmates to privately owned facilities both in state and out of state;
- Reopen city-owned detention centers in Shafter and Taft; and
- Suspend the planned closure of a rehabilitation center in Norco.
Brown's original plan would cost about $315 million through the end of this year (California Healthline, 9/10).
Lawmakers' Reactions to Passage of Compromise Plan
Following the vote, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said it would be "very unfortunate" if federal courts reject the compromise bill and Brown's original plan takes effect, but "it's a risk we should be ready ... to take."
Republicans also supported the compromise measure, according to the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert."
Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said, "I don't think any of us like having the courts or the judges telling us what to do with our inmate population, but that's the reality that we live in" (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/11).
Huff added that the compromise plan offers "certainty that there is no early release" of state prisoners.
Two senate Democrats -- Noreen Evans (Santa Rosa) and Loni Hancock (Berkeley) -- voted against the compromise plan.
Evans said, "I simply cannot in good conscience give a $315 million blank check to the director of our corrections system," adding that the bill "will not provide the reforms that we want" (Mason/McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 9/11).
On Wednesday, KPCC's "Represent!" reported on the passage of SB 105 (Stoltze, "Represent!," KPCC, 9/11).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.