California Developing Plans To Obey Recent Inmate Reduction Order
Despite efforts to fight the ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, California officials are developing plans to obey a court order to transfer more than 9,000 inmates from state prisons by the end of the year, KPPC's "Represent!" reports (Small, "Represent!," KPPC, 6/21).
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, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) 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.
State officials said that they could remove about 7,000 inmates by December under the plan (Woolfolk, San Jose Mercury News, 6/21).
Details of Recent Ruling
On Thursday, 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.
Following the ruling, Brown in a statement said, "The state will seek an immediate stay of this unprecedented order" (California Healthline, 6/21).
The governor also filed notice that he intends to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court (Thompson, AP/Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/20). The state has until July 13 to do so (California Healthline, 6/21).
Details of Population Reduction Plans
Gregory Ahern -- Alameda County Sheriff and president of the California State Sheriffs Association -- said the group is working with Brown's office to develop a backup plan to be used if the Supreme Court rejects the case or agrees with the judges' ruling.
Ahern said the state is considering several strategies to comply with the order, including:
- Shifting more inmates to county jails, firefighting camps and out-of-state prisons; and
- Implementing electronic monitoring of inmates, especially those who are near the end of their sentences (San Jose Mercury News, 6/21).