Judges Grant Two More Months To Reduce Calif. Prison Population
On Wednesday, a panel of federal judges granted California a two-month extension to comply with a court-ordered reduction of the state prison population and extended to mid-January 2014 negotiations to find a long-term solution to prison overcrowding, Reuters reports (Bernstein, Reuters, 12/11).
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."
In October, a panel of federal judges granted California a one-month extension 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 (California Healthline, 10/22).
Details of Additional Extension
On Wednesday, the judges extended to mid-January 2014 negotiations about prison overcrowding between the Brown administration and prisoner advocates.
If those negotiations fail, the judges gave California an addition two months -- until April 18 -- to reduce the prison population (Reuters, 12/11).
The extension was granted after the state offered to set a 30-day limit for isolation of inmates with severe mental illnesses who have not committed rule violations.
The judges said that negotiations would not be extended beyond mid-January 2014, barring "extraordinary circumstances." However, they left open the possibility of further extensions for the state to comply with the prison population cap.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) noted that the extended deadline coincides with the deadline for Brown's 2014 budget, which will show judges how the state plans to fund inmate reduction efforts (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 12/11).
Deborah Hoffman, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, called the extension "encouraging."
However, Michael Bien -- an attorney representing inmates -- said he is "not comfortable with a long extension," adding, "There has got to be something done and soon" about prison overcrowding (Reuters, 12/11).
Don Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, said the extension is hurting California inmates. "Our clients need to have the court's [reduction] order enforced as soon as possible because overcrowding remains a serious problem," he said.
Specter added, "We're anxious to either complete the negotiation process, or if that's not successful, to resume litigation at the earliest possible time" (Thompson, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/11).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.