Judges Grant Calif. One-Month Extension on Inmate Reduction
On Monday, a panel of federal judges granted California a one-month extension to comply with a court-ordered reduction of the state prison population as officials and prisoners' attorneys seek a long-term solution to overcrowding, AP/U-T San Diego reports.
The extension comes one week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Brown's appeal of the inmate population cap (Thompson, AP/U-T San Diego, 10/21).
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.
In June, three federal judges ordered Brown to release about 9,600 inmates -- or 8% of the inmate population -- by 2014.
In late September, the judges rejected a request by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for an additional three years to carry out the inmate reduction order but granted California an additional four weeks to meet the cap.
The judges also ordered the state and inmates' attorneys to "meet and confer" on "a durable solution to the prison crowding problem." The judges said that attorneys "may also discuss any necessary or desirable extension" of the compliance deadline.
Appellate judge Peter Siggins was assigned to oversee the discussions and report back to the panel on Monday with suggestions on how to proceed (California Healthline, 9/25).
Details of One-Month Extension
In the one-paragraph order released Monday, the judges extended the deadline for the state to comply with the cap until the end of February 2014 in order to give the Brown administration and prisoners' attorneys more time to reach a compromise on a long-term plan to reduce overcrowding.
The judges called for Siggins to present another update on the negotiations in mid-November.
Reactions to Extension
In response to the order, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said, "There still remains an opportunity to make fundamental change in California's correctional system by providing more resources for mental health, substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs so that once people leave prison they won't come back" (Orr, “KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 10/21).
However, Michael Bien -- an attorney representing inmates -- said that prisoners' attorneys have not yet taken part in any meetings with the Brown administration. Bien added, "Justice Siggins is a very experienced mediator, and we assume that he sees a reason to continue the process."
Assembly Hearing on Overcrowding
Meanwhile, the state Assembly held a hearing Monday to discuss overcrowding in the state prison system. The hearing was the first in a series of planned meetings on the issue (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/21).
During the hearing, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that the state has reduced the prison population by about 25,000 inmates in the past two years.
However, Don Specter of the Prison Law Office said that "[s]ome prisons are operating at 170% of their design capacity today," adding, "There are about 50% more prisoners in the prisons than they were designed to hold" (“KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 10/21).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.