State Says Judges Exceeded Authority in Blocking Parts of Prison Plan
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) administration filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court saying that three federal judges have overstepped their authority by blocking parts of a state plan for meeting a prison population cap, including a provision to send thousands of inmates to out-of-state facilities, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports (York, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 9/25).
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 August, Brown's administration filed an appeal of the release order with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Details of Compromise Plan, Extension Request
Earlier this month, Brown signed a compromise prison population reduction plan (SB 105) that he developed with Democratic lawmakers.
Under the plan:
- Brown agreed to ask federal judges for a three-year extension to comply with the population cap;
- 2,500 state inmates will be sent to county jails, community correctional facilities and a private prison in the state;
- No additional prisoners will be sent to out-of-state facilities; and
- Funding for prisoner rehabilitation efforts will increase by $100 million beginning July 1, 2014 (California Healthline, 9/25).
The measure also includes a backup plan -- for use if judges reject the compromise -- that would:
- Shift thousands of inmates to privately owned facilities both in state and out of state;
- Reopen city-owned detention centers in Shafter and Taft; and
- Suspend the planned closure of a rehabilitation center in Norco (California Healthline, 9/17).
Judges Reject Three-Year Extension, Other Parts of Plan
On Tuesday, a panel of federal judges rejected the request for three additional years to meet the prison population cap. Instead, the judges granted the state one additional month, making the new deadline for meeting the cap Jan. 27, 2014.
The judges ordered the state and inmates' attorneys to "meet and confer" during that time on "a durable solution to the prison crowding problem."
In addition, the judges ordered the state not to "enter into any contracts or other arrangement to lease additional [prison space] in out-of-state facilities," which is part of the backup plan included in SB 105 (California Healthline, 9/25).
Details of Brown Administration's Brief
In the brief filed Wednesday, state officials said, "This order, like the court's other recent actions, disregards the law and the role of the judiciary," adding, "The court's interest appears to be in legislating criminal justice policy by reducing the prison population through outright releases of inmates that it and (inmates' attorneys) do not believe should be incarcerated."
However, the brief said that state officials have "no opposition to participating" in discussions with inmates' attorneys ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 9/25).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.