California governor proposes $315 million plan to ease prison overcrowding

LOS ANGELES Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:57pm EDT

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks at the 7th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremony at The California Museum in Sacramento, California March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks at the 7th Annual California Hall of Fame induction ceremony at The California Museum in Sacramento, California March 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown, facing a federal court order to ease overcrowding in the state's prison system, proposed a $315 million plan on Tuesday to expand inmate capacity by leasing space from county jails and other facilities.

The Democratic governor, who was joined by Republican leaders of the state legislature in announcing the bill, said his proposal would reduce California's prisons to 137.5 percent of capacity, as required by the court, and avoid the controversial early release of thousands of inmates.

He is seeking passage of the bill in the California legislature which would allocate funding.

"This legislation will protect public safety and give us time to work with public officials and interested parties to make thoughtful changes in the overall criminal justice system," Brown said in a written statement.

After years of litigation, a specially appointed panel of three appellate judges ruled in 2009 that California's prisons can exceed their design capacity but set a specific cap on the inmate population that would force the state to either find new homes for some 10,000 prisoners or let them go.

Frustrated with the slow pace of the state's response, the three judges have twice threatened Brown with contempt.

Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition for a stay of that order by state prison officials, who argued that they were working to meet the population target by December 31 but that doing so could be costly and pose a risk to public safety.

Though Brown's joint appearance with Republican leaders and Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez suggested bipartisan support for his plan, Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg took immediate issue with the bill.

'NO PROMISE, NO HOPE'

"The governor's proposal is a plan with no promise and no hope. As the population of California grows, it's only a short matter of time until new prison cells overflow and the Court demands mass releases again," Steinberg said in a written statement.

"More money for more prison cells alone is not a durable solution; it is not a fiscally responsible solution; and it is not a safe solution," he said. "We must invest in a durable criminal justice strategy, which reduces both crime and prison overcrowding."

According to the governor's office, his plan would allocate $315 million for the state to "expeditiously" lease in-state and out-of-state prison capacity, including at county jails and private facilities.

Brown's proposal comes as new attention is being focused on California prisons during a hunger strike by inmates to protest conditions in special housing units where some prisoners are held for prolonged periods in isolation.

The protest is the third and largest hunger strike staged by inmates over solitary confinement in the last two years.

State officials deny the inmates' claims of inhumane conditions, saying that some prisoners have cell mates, are permitted visits and have access to a law library.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation last week won a court order allowing them to force feed some of the prisoners taking part in the hunger strike, although officials said there was no immediate need to do so.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (11)
TackSession wrote:
First of all let me say that I voted for President Obama and I love the guy. I also like Brown and voted for him, too. I think they are both doing good jobs, especially when considering the crappy hands they’re dealt. I guess I am a Liberal.

Sorry I don’t mean to be rude, and I’d hate for my comment to not get published over my statement that, I guess you can’t just cut their ba— off cuz they’ve screwed up over and over again???

So here is another option: We have beautiful weather in California. People pay millions of Dollars to live in small homes here, all on account of the weather.

Why not put a big fence area with heavily armed guards outside, and then put all the prisoners inside. We have a lot of open desert we can use for this purpose. I mean thousands of these hardcore guys.

You can use helicopters once a week to dump food into the area, and they can work collecting their garbage and feces and delivering it to a corner sight on the property for pickup. This way they get to live in a communal environment, under the million Dollar California sun, and they can work to keep their habitat clean…they’ll get their exercise, too. Is this really bad and in-humane? Sh– I lived under the Santa Monica pier as a college student for 3 months and trust me it was awesome… I even got laid once in a while… Why can’t they???

Aug 27, 2013 9:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
It’s high time we made use of our US Territories.
Guam, or Puerto Rico for instance. Build min security prisons, such as WWII Army barracks type Quonset huts. Those Vietnamese knew how to build cheap cages, as I recall. Buy a few hundred thousand, boat em over. Load em up with our mainland bad guys, let these territories employ their locals for security. Creates J O B S, bails out the good ole USA, and places criminals on an island, out of sight, out of mind. Other nations have done this with their bad boys, EXILE, it works.

Aug 27, 2013 9:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BONNIEMADRID wrote:
Everyone has disagreed with Mr. Brown with the exception of stakeholders in the corrections community. CDCR reports, independent reports and advocates have brought forth hard core evidence and documentation that certain groups of inmates are not a threat. There is also substantial evidence indicating the gross over sentencing in the CA penal system.

Fear mongering is not evidence it is a diversion to ellude from the truth. CA does not need more prisons. And our precious resources should not be allocated to such based on our Governor having a personal ego trip.

Aug 27, 2013 11:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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