Former Govs. File Brief Supporting Delay of Inmate Release Order
On Monday, four former California governors filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) request for the U.S. Supreme Court to delay a federal court order to release about 9,600 state prisoners, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Siders, "Capitol Report," Sacramento Bee, 7/15).
Background on Prison Health Issues
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 Gov. 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.
Shortly after the June ruling, the Brown administration requested a stay of the order until the Supreme Court rules on the case. However, the federal judges denied Brown's request to delay the order.
Last week, Brown filed a request with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay of the order (California Healthline, 7/12).
Details of the Brief
Kent Scheidegger -- legal director at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which prepared the brief -- said that Gov. Brown asked for assistance in the case from former Govs. George Deukmejian (R), Pete Wilson (R), Gray Davis (D) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) (Megerian, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 7/15).
In the brief, the governors criticized prison realignment efforts, noting that crime has increased in the state's largest cities since they began.
They wrote, "If the reductions made already are a substantial cause of this spike [in crime], as is entirely possible, then further releases of even more dangerous inmates will cause additional and irreparable harm."
The former governors also argued that the release order violates a state constitutional amendment passed in 2008 that ensures the rights of crime victims (Thompson, AP/Orange County Register, 7/15).
They wrote that "no further reductions should be ordered without a full examination of the case" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 7/15).
According to the AP/Orange County Register, it is unusual for entities to file briefs at this point in the legal process and it is not clear whether Kennedy will accept it.
Reaction of Inmates' Attorneys
Don Specter -- director of the Prison Law Office, which is representing inmates in the case -- said the former governors are the ones "who caused the problem and have refused to take appropriate action to solve the problem."
Another Brief Filed
Meanwhile, the Chief Probation Officers of California and the California Association of Counties also filed a brief supporting Brown's request for a stay of the inmate reduction order.
In the brief, they argued that the state's decision to move thousands of prisoners to local jails "had a profound effect on California counties" and that releasing additional inmates "adds potentially unmanageable pressures on a system that is already difficult to manage" (AP/Orange County Register, 7/15).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.