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Gov. Brown Moves to End Cap on Prison Population

Brown has moved to end a federal court order capping the state's prison population and another that requires intensive oversight of prison mental-health care.

Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he has moved to end a federal court order capping the state's prison population and another that requires intensive oversight of prison mental-health care.

"After decades of judicial intervention in our correctional system and the expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars, the time has come to restore California's rightful control of its prison system," according to Brown, who held news conferences in Los Angeles and Sacramento to announce the effort.

The governor said the state has complied with a federal judge's order to find ways to achieve further reductions in the number of inmates in the state's 33 prisons.

California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Secretary Jeff Beard said the state's prison health-care system "is now a model for the nation."

"Independent expert reviews have found that California's prison medical and mental health care systems meet constitutional standards," he said. "It would be both unnecessary and unsafe for the courts to order further inmate reductions."

To see previous coverage of prison realignment on Altadena Patch, click here.

Brown also announced that he has signed a proclamation ending the prison overcrowding emergency that has been in place since 2006. The move will allows the state to begin in July to phase out the use of private out-of-state prison beds for almost 9,000 inmates.

A 1991 federal class-action lawsuit filed by state prison inmates alleged that California's prison mental health care system was unconstitutional. Prior administrations then entered into various consent decrees that set in motion judicial oversight of the prison system.

In the intervening years, California rebuilt its prison mental health care system, investing billions in additional treatment capacity and hiring hundreds of mental health care professionals, Brown said.

Brown said his office has filed federal court documents to end judicial oversight because the mental health care provided to prisoners now exceeds constitutional requirements.

In 2007, the mental-health lawsuit, along with another complaint involving medical care, was assigned to a three-judge court that determined that overcrowding was the primary cause of problems in California's prisons.

Two years later, the court ordered the state to reduce crowding to 137.5 percent of "design capacity." The U.S Supreme Court affirmed that order last year.

Since 2006, the inmate population in the state's prisons has been reduced by more than 43,000 and crowding is down from more than 200 percent to just below 150 percent, Brown said.

More than half of the population decline has taken place since October 1, 2011, as a result of Public Safety Realignment, the governor said.

A state budget watchdog group, however, said the latest filings are an attempt by Brown to dodge the requirements of the court orders.

"If people's lives weren't at stake, claiming that caging one and a half times the people our prisons were built to hold isn't overcrowding would be laughable," according to Diana Zuniga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. "There are clear, safe ways to bring people back to our communities that would increase public safety and free more funding for social services and the education system the governor claims to value so much."

Darla Anderson January 12, 2013 at 04:04 AM
The News media reports a LIE that 30,000 were released early. But, Cali Dept of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) says none are being released early. All the CAPTIVE are forced to comply with their court-ordered prison sentences, being released only after completing their HARD TIME. Force Brown & his minions to comply with their court order regarding THEIR CRIMES. The Cali Criminal Justice SYSTEM has YET to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. The MISTAKE: Giving them 2 years to come into compliance. Prison is for violent felons. Most people should not be there, let alone remain there. A paid bedfellow of CDCR, Brown is not the guy to tell us what the prisoners no longer need. Further, it seems Brown used his time not to work out how to release low level 'offenders', but to buy the prisoners' star witness. Brown found Cate's replacement: JEFF BEARD, KEY WITNESS of the prisoners in the Supreme Court Case, who testified the prisoners' rights were violated by Cali. Now on Brown's payroll, Beard says the prisoners' rights are no longer being violated. This twisted perversion is a total political & financial conflict of interest, exposing the moral depravity of these dishonest bedfellows. Take two months off the sentences of all low level offenders; send them home to their families. Let the human chattel, the slaves, return home to their wives & children.
Ivan G January 12, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Prisoners get sent to county jails and are released early fron there, because county jails are overcrowded.

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