California lawmakers approve compromise on prison crowding

SACRAMENTO Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:26am EDT

Prisoners at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California are seen housed in a gymnasium due to overcrowding in this September 14, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

Prisoners at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California are seen housed in a gymnasium due to overcrowding in this September 14, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake/Files

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SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - Funding for a compromise plan aimed at easing overcrowding in the California's troubled prison system was approved by both houses of the state's legislature on Wednesday.

Under the plan, the state will ask a panel of federal judges to reconsider an end-of-year deadline to ease prison crowding, saying the state would prefer instead to spend funds on rehabilitation and mental health services for inmates - a strategy meant to ease overcrowding over time.

If the judges refuse to grant an extension, the measure sent to Gov. Jerry Brown also authorizes the state to spend $730 million to lease space for inmates in private lockups, county jails and out-of-state prisons over the next two years.

The judges have ordered the most populous U.S. state, which holds 120,000 prisoners in 34 facilities, to reduce the prison population by about 8,000, either by finding new prison beds or by releasing the inmates that pose the lowest risk to society.

Brown has criticized the order, which stems from years of lawsuits over prison conditions, as expensive and dangerous. But the judges have refused to budge, threatening to hold Brown personally in contempt of court if he does not comply.

Last month, Brown, a Democrat, proposed spending $315 million next year and $415 million the year after that for alternative housing for inmates. His plan was blocked by other Democrats in the state senate who preferred to ask the judges to allow a plan that would offer rehabilitation services to inmates instead.

On Monday, flanked by legislative leaders from both parties, Brown said he would ask the judges to grant an extension of a December 31 deadline to ease crowding, in exchange for a promise to spend up to $400 million on rehabilitation efforts, including mental health services for inmates.

Spending money on rehabilitation, said Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, who led the opposition to Brown's original plan, would reduce crowding over time by helping inmates avoid recidivism.

The proposal is the latest move in an ongoing spat between the state and a panel of three federal judges in the wake of two lawsuits over poor medical and mental healthcare - found to be rooted in overcrowding - in California state prisons.

If Brown does not find new housing for enough inmates to reduce the prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity, the court ruled, he must release enough inmates - about 8,000 - to reach the goal that way.

The order to reduce crowding is just one of several problems facing the state prison system. A hunger strike over solitary confinement policies drew 30,000 participants at its peak, lasting nearly eight weeks before finally ending last week.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Ken Wills)

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Comments (4)
BigMak wrote:
A hunger strike, pfffft – if they make it unequivocally public that they voluntarily participate in not eating, let them die. I get sick so seeing how prisoners are treated because they get free education, free food, free heat, free water, free sports equipment, free television and what do us struggling folks get without still being confined to a jail except one controlled by our so called society. The reason facilities are overcrowded is because most of the world is evil and violent but the government secretly enjoys that so they can employ such individuals in warfare or other private matters. My guess is illegal immigrants also play a large part in the amount of inmates incarcerated but again, this can be solved if we chose to update our policies. A death penalty should be mandatory in every state in trials proved WITH UNQUESTIONABLE PROOF, especially those with an added confession, and child support needs to be abolished since the woman ultimately makes the choice to sleep with a guy then is the only one who can decide to give birth to a child. Why does it need to take fifteen years to execute someone if sentenced to life ????? I suggest investing more money in the justice department to preside over appeals and if still found guilty then throw them in a fire while burning trash from a landfill to combat two things at one time. The few that commit violent crimes as a result from the effect of a drug, as a act of vengeance after a long duration of abuse, child molestation or other reasons should be spared from dying to a understandable amount. My heart breaks when I think about all the affected families that lost someone and nobody was ever caught, they was found decades later thus able to enjoy the majority of their youth, they was offered a deal or they beat the charge but now some federal judge living in the valley somewhere with enough cash to stay far away from any threats decides to put more delinquents on the streets. A lot can be said for nonviolent drug traffickers or maybe even those that were negligent in an event that ended with manslaughter because I see those probably can be reviewed and several thieves possibly are eligible to be in the same category granted they never physically hurt anyone. What to do with the unlawful migrants or refugees ?????? I think they present serious danger because of their expat status they can always do crime here then flee to another nation without thinking twice about how to establish themselves in the foreign land but I also feel sorrow for those persecuted in other lands opposite to our ways so maybe they need to develop a community service that these types need to work for free to be welcomed in America. How about building vertically instead of horizontally and taking up more area ?????? ( this option fails to be viable to California but for others I bet it helps stop the idiots from lighting stuff on fire in their cells if they know the whole establishment can collapse like the twin towers or makes them think twice about trying to escape from ten floors above the ground ) The homeless get less aid than what offenders get in the United States. Who cares if they get Halal or Vegan food if that has nothing literally to do with their health because that freedom belongs to those who follow the rules. My taxes pay for them but I got little authority over how they choose to control these animals ??????? A joke also when none of the cops or celebrities that violate the law ever manage to get taken inside, no instead they just lose their position then get probation. I furthermore find it ironic that offenses are then allowed by correctional officers as they pretend nothing happens, care less or are the product of corruption.

Sep 12, 2013 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BigMak wrote:
A hunger strike, pfffft – if they make it unequivocally public that they voluntarily participate in not eating, let them die. I get sick so seeing how prisoners are treated because they get free education, free food, free heat, free water, free sports equipment, free television and what do us struggling folks get without still being confined to a jail except one controlled by our so called society. The reason facilities are overcrowded is because most of the world is evil and violent but the government secretly enjoys that so they can employ such individuals in warfare or other private matters. My guess is illegal immigrants also play a large part in the amount of inmates incarcerated but again, this can be solved if we chose to update our policies. A death penalty should be mandatory in every state in trials proved WITH UNQUESTIONABLE PROOF, especially those with an added confession, and child support needs to be abolished since the woman ultimately makes the choice to sleep with a guy then is the only one who can decide to give birth to a child. Why does it need to take fifteen years to execute someone if sentenced to life ????? I suggest investing more money in the justice department to preside over appeals and if still found guilty then throw them in a fire while burning trash from a landfill to combat two things at one time. The few that commit violent crimes as a result from the effect of a drug, as a act of vengeance after a long duration of abuse, child molestation or other reasons should be spared from dying to a understandable amount. My heart breaks when I think about all the affected families that lost someone and nobody was ever caught, they was found decades later thus able to enjoy the majority of their youth, they was offered a deal or they beat the charge but now some federal judge living in the valley somewhere with enough cash to stay far away from any threats decides to put more delinquents on the streets. A lot can be said for nonviolent drug traffickers or maybe even those that were negligent in an event that ended with manslaughter because I see those probably can be reviewed and several thieves possibly are eligible to be in the same category granted they never physically hurt anyone. What to do with the unlawful migrants or refugees ?????? I think they present serious danger because of their expat status they can always do crime here then flee to another nation without thinking twice about how to establish themselves in the foreign land but I also feel sorrow for those persecuted in other lands opposite to our ways so maybe they need to develop a community service that these types need to work for free to be welcomed in America. How about building vertically instead of horizontally and taking up more area ?????? ( this option fails to be viable to California but for others I bet it helps stop the idiots from lighting stuff on fire in their cells if they know the whole establishment can collapse like the twin towers or makes them think twice about trying to escape from ten floors above the ground ) The homeless get less aid than what offenders get in the United States. Who cares if they get Halal or Vegan food if that has nothing literally to do with their health because that freedom belongs to those who follow the rules. My taxes pay for them but I got little authority over how they choose to control these animals ??????? A joke also when none of the cops or celebrities that violate the law ever manage to get taken inside, no instead they just lose their position then get probation. I furthermore find it ironic that offenses are then allowed by correctional officers as they pretend nothing happens, care less or are the product of corruption.

Sep 12, 2013 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BigMak wrote:
A hunger strike, pfffft – if they make it unequivocally public that they voluntarily participate in not eating, let them die. I get sick so seeing how prisoners are treated because they get free education, free food, free heat, free water, free sports equipment, free television and what do us struggling folks get without still being confined to a jail except one controlled by our so called society. The reason facilities are overcrowded is because most of the world is evil and violent but the government secretly enjoys that so they can employ such individuals in warfare or other private matters. My guess is illegal immigrants also play a large part in the amount of inmates incarcerated but again, this can be solved if we chose to update our policies. A death penalty should be mandatory in every state in trials proved WITH UNQUESTIONABLE PROOF, especially those with an added confession, and child support needs to be abolished since the woman ultimately makes the choice to sleep with a guy then is the only one who can decide to give birth to a child. Why does it need to take fifteen years to execute someone if sentenced to life ????? I suggest investing more money in the justice department to preside over appeals and if still found guilty then throw them in a fire while burning trash from a landfill to combat two things at one time. The few that commit violent crimes as a result from the effect of a drug, as a act of vengeance after a long duration of abuse, child molestation or other reasons should be spared from dying to a understandable amount. My heart breaks when I think about all the affected families that lost someone and nobody was ever caught, they was found decades later thus able to enjoy the majority of their youth, they was offered a deal or they beat the charge but now some federal judge living in the valley somewhere with enough cash to stay far away from any threats decides to put more delinquents on the streets. A lot can be said for nonviolent drug traffickers or maybe even those that were negligent in an event that ended with manslaughter because I see those probably can be reviewed and several thieves possibly are eligible to be in the same category granted they never physically hurt anyone. What to do with the unlawful migrants or refugees ?????? I think they present serious danger because of their expat status they can always do crime here then flee to another nation without thinking twice about how to establish themselves in the foreign land but I also feel sorrow for those persecuted in other lands opposite to our ways so maybe they need to develop a community service that these types need to work for free to be welcomed in America. How about building vertically instead of horizontally and taking up more area ?????? ( this option fails to be viable to California but for others I bet it helps stop the idiots from lighting stuff on fire in their cells if they know the whole establishment can collapse like the twin towers or makes them think twice about trying to escape from ten floors above the ground ) The homeless get less aid than what offenders get in the United States. Who cares if they get Halal or Vegan food if that has nothing literally to do with their health because that freedom belongs to those who follow the rules. My taxes pay for them but I got little authority over how they choose to control these animals ??????? A joke also when none of the cops or celebrities that violate the law ever manage to get taken inside, no instead they just lose their position then get probation. I furthermore find it ironic that offenses are then allowed by correctional officers as they pretend nothing happens, care less or are the product of corruption.

Sep 12, 2013 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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