Panel In SF Gives California Two More Years To Fix Prison Overpopulation Problem

A federal three-judge panel today gave Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration a two-year extension of a deadline for reducing the number of inmates in the state’s overcrowded prisons.

The judges said they were reluctant to extend the deadline, but were doing so because the state has now proposed a plan for a long-term, sustainable solution to overcrowding.

“Resolving the conditions in California prisons for the long run, and not merely for the next few months, is of paramount importance to this court as well as to the people of this state,” the panel said.

The court order was made in two long-running civil rights lawsuits in which the judges had previously ruled that the only way to correct constitutionally inadequate medical care in the prison system was to reduce the number of inmates.

The deadline is now Feb. 28, 2016, for the state to reduce the population of its 34 adult prisons to 137.5 percent of the capacity they were designed to hold.

Corrections and Rehabilitation Department spokesman Jeffrey Callison said that would require a reduction of 5,470 inmates from the current population of 117,634.

The inmate numbers were previously reduced by about 25,000 as a result of the state’s realignment policy, which shifts low-level offenders to county jails.

The extension comes with strict conditions agreed to by state officials. The administration, which has repeatedly appealed orders by the three-judge panel in the past, agreed not to appeal further or to seek additional extensions, according to today’s order.

The court will appoint a compliance officer, and if benchmarks for reducing the population are not met, the officer will have the power to order the release of prisoners.

The state also agreed to increase credits for non-violent, second-strike offenders, expand parole for elderly and medically infirm inmates, and consider establishing a commission to recommend sentencing law reforms.

The state was also ordered not to send more than the current number of 8,900 inmates to out-of-state prisons.

Brown issued a statement today saying, “It is encouraging that the three-judge court has agreed to a two-year extension.

“The state now has the time and resources necessary to help inmates become productive members of society and make our communities safer,” the governor said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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  • Sooneridver

    BS… if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime! The over crowding of the State’s Prisons is just a reflection of society; people don’t give a damn about anything but themselves.

  • frenchjr25

    What we need is judicial reform. We need to reform why and how people are prosecuted and we need to eliminate indeterminate sentences.

    We also need to start retraining prosecutors so that everyone in California is on the same page. We have too many prosecutors who are out to make a name for themselves. They prosecute everyone in an attempt to pad their resumes and conviction records.

  • richmck

    Hard to fix a problem when you apparently don’t have a clue about the problem! The problem isn’t a prison bed shortage but it’s always been the severe county jail bed shortage that dates to the mid-1980s. Rather than deal with the jail shortage, the past four Governors allowed the shift of a low-level inmate population from jail to prison. In 1983, the inmate population was split 50%/50% between jail and prison. By 2006, only 32% were in jail and 68% were in prison. That year, the Sheriff’s Association reported a 65,000 jail bed shortage. County jail bed costs are far lower than prison bed costs. The huge inmate shift overcrowded prisons, boosted annual correctional system operating costs by billions and caused annual parole violation rates to jump
    from 20% to over 30%, the highest in the country. If the politicians were serious about fixing the “prison overcrowding” problem, they would require an independent analysis of the statewide correctional system. If the major recommendations of the last system wide analysis in 1970 had been followed, there wouldn’t have been any prison
    overcrowding and billions would have been saved.