Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Inmate Reduction Order
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) appeal of a court-ordered reduction of the state prison population, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The justices rejected the appeal without comment, saying that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the matter (Stanton, Sacramento Bee, 10/15).
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 Jan. 1, 2014 (California Healthline, 9/25).
In July, Brown filed a request with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay of the order. In August, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Brown's request.
The Brown administration then filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the order (California Healthline, 9/10).
In September, a panel of federal judges rejected a request made by Brown for an additional three years to meet the court-ordered reduction but granted California an additional four weeks to comply with the cap. The judges also ordered the state and inmates' attorneys to "meet and confer" during that time on "a durable solution to the prison crowding problem" (California Healthline, 9/25).
Reaction From Administration, Lawmakers
The Brown administration said it was "disappointed" with the Supreme Court's rejection of the appeal (St. John, Los Angeles Times, 10/15).
In a statement, Deborah Hoffman -- a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation -- said, "In the last two years, California has made the most significant reforms to our criminal justice system in decades, reducing the prison population by 25,000 inmates."
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that the Supreme Court decision was "not unexpected" and that he hopes court-ordered discussions between the state and prisoners' attorneys will result in a "long-term delay" of the reduction deadline (Sacramento Bee, 10/15).
Prisoner Advocates' Reaction
Meanwhile, Michael Bien -- an attorney representing inmates -- in a statement said the rejection is "a strong affirmation and message to the state: Your prisons are still dangerous and broken" (Mintz, San Jose Mercury News, 10/15).
Don Specter of the Prison Law Office said, "Reports from the court experts still show that prisoners are at great risk of injury or death from the lack of adequate medical care" (Los Angeles Times, 10/15).
State Announces New Contract
On Tuesday, the state announced a three-year contract to rent out beds at a private Corrections Corp. of America federal detention facility in California City.
According to the contract, the state will pay $28.5 million annually to house 2,304 inmates at the facility.
CCA will pay $10 million for initial upgrades to the facility to accommodate higher-security prisoners and relocate federal immigration detainees and U.S. Marshals Service prisoners to make room for the state transfers (St. John, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 10/15). Any further upgrades to the facility will be paid back by the state in monthly installments over 15 years, according to the contract (Brown, San Francisco Business Times, 10/15).
Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of the Supreme Court decision are provided below.
- "High Court Rejects Calif. Inmate Crowding Appeal" (Thompson, "KPCC News," AP/KPCC, 10/15).
- "U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Brown's Prison Appeal" (Orr, “KXJZ News,” Capital Public Radio, 10/15).