Health Care Concerns Push Judges To Weigh Prison Cap
Judges overseeing the health care and mental health care systems in California prisons on Monday ordered the creation of a judicial panel to consider capping the prison population, the Los Angeles Times reports.
U.S. District Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton ruled that the state's plan (AB 900) to build 53,000 new prison and jail beds would not adequately address underlying problems with the health care and mental health care systems in California's correctional system (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 7/24).
Moreover, Henderson wrote that the law does not take steps to correct shortages of medical or correctional staff at prisons (Yamamura/Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 7/24).
Under the order, the Hon. Mary Schroeder of Phoenix, as chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, would appoint a three-judge panel to consider the population cap (Los Angeles Times, 7/24).
However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said he would appeal the order. The appeal also would be heard by the 9th Circuit Court (Thompson, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/24).
The time frame is unclear for considering the appeal or convening the panel (Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24).
Legal experts for the Schwarzenegger administration said it could take as long as a year to collect testimony and consider further action (Los Angeles Times, 7/24).
Assembly Republicans have pledged to oppose the move, arguing that it could lead to an early release of some prisoners (Sacramento Bee, 7/24).
A third judge, overseeing a case involving care for inmates with disabilities, deferred making a decision on a similar motion until Henderson and Karlton made their decisions (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/24).
The order is rooted in a 1996 federal law addressing federal judges' role in ordering early releases from prisons and jails (Sacramento Bee, 7/24).
KPCC's "Air Talk" on Tuesday included a discussion with KQED correspondent Judy Campbell about the judges' order (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 7/24).
Full audio of the segment is available online.
KQED's "The California Report" on Tuesday also reported on the order. The segment includes comments from:
- Attorney Michael Bien, who represents inmates;
- Assembly member Todd Spitzer (R-Orange); and
- Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) (Campbell, "The California Report," KQED, 7/24).