Inmates’ Lawyers Ask Judges To Find Brown, Beard in Contempt
On Wednesday, lawyers for California inmates asked a three-judge panel to find Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and a state prison official in contempt of court for not complying with federal orders to further reduce the prison population, the Contra Costa Times reports (Mintz, Contra Costa Times, 5/15).
In 2006, a U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that federal oversight of the state's prison health care 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, Brown 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.
On May 2, Brown filed a proposal to comply with the order.
However, Brown on Monday filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court over the cap. Brown says that he plans to delay the implementation of his proposal during the appeals process (California Healthline, 5/14).
Details of Contempt Filing
Lawyers for inmates asked the panel of federal judges to find Brown and Jeffrey Beard -- secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- in contempt of court, citing "willful defiance" of the prison population cap.
The lawyers also recommended that the judges order the state to release more low-risk inmates to help reduce overcrowding.
If the judges find Brown and Beard in contempt, the state officials could face a range of punishments, such as civil fines or jail time.However, Vikram Amar -- a UC-Davis law professor -- said that a criminal contempt finding is "very unlikely" in this case (Contra Costa Times, 5/15). 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.