Calif. Seeks To Lease 4,600 Prison Beds To Comply With Court Order
Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration is planning to lease more than 4,600 prison beds from private and publicly owned facilities to comply with a federal court-ordered reduction of the state prison population, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).
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.
In July, Brown filed a request with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay of the order. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Brown's request.
Following the ruling, Jeffrey Callison -- spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said the state will continue to prepare a Supreme Court appeal of the initial prisoner release order (California Healthline, 8/8).
Details of Brown's Plan
Brown's proposal to lease beds from private and publicly owned facilities would include:
- 2,400 beds at a Corrections Corp. of America facility in the Mojave Desert;
- 1,200 beds at two low-security prisons owned by GEO Group; and
- 1,000 beds at Alameda County jails and a city-owned prison in Kern County (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).
The rented beds would replace a plan to expand good time credits for low-risk offenders to facilitate early releases.
The proposal also would:
- Extend an existing contract with CCA to keep 9,000 prisoners at out-of-state facilities for an additional three years;
- House an additional 1,250 inmates at firefighting camps;
- Transfer 1,820 inmates to a newly opened medical facility in Stockton; and
- Transfer 1,100 inmates next year to a mental health facility that currently is under construction.
Jeffrey Beard -- secretary of the state Department of Corrections -- said that the Brown administration still is reluctant to house inmates at private prisons and jails but that officials were left with little choice after the Supreme Court denied the state's request for a stay of the release order ("KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 8/8).
Joe Baumann -- chapter president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association -- said Brown seems "pretty well painted into a situation where he has no options left" (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).
Prisoner Advocates Criticize Plan
Advocates for state prisoners say that the state's plan to relocate inmates to private facilities is a shortsighted solution, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.
Donald Specter -- an attorney with the Prison Law Office -- said relocating inmates is costly and "doesn't do anything to further rehabilitation," adding, "It just perpetuates the same policy."
James Austin -- a prison consultant who works with prisoners' attorneys -- said the state instead should expand inmates' good time credits to release low-risk offenders early (Megerian, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).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.