For Immediate Release – January 8th
Governor Asks Court to End Prison Population Reduction Requirement
Makes Another Attempt to Justify Unconstitutional Prison Overcrowding
Contact: Emily Harris
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Sacramento CA—Yesterday the State of California filed another response to the Federal Court order to reduce dangerous overcrowding in California’s prison, urging the court to end the 137.5% population cap. In the Motion to Vacate or Modify Population Reduction Order, the state claimed that “overcrowding and health care conditions cited by this Court to support its population reduction order are now a distant memory.” California’s prisons currently hold 133,000 in space that was intended for 80,000.
This is one in a series of attempts by the Brown Administration to evade the Court’s order to reduce the prison population. In September, the Court rejected Brown’s attempt to raise the population cap to 145%.
“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. But this isn’t laughable, it’s morally outrageous,” says Diana Zuñiga, Field Organizer for 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. It’s time for this administration to stop dragging it’s feet and make the kind of change Californians have been demanding for years.”
Advocates have proposed a series of parole and sentencing reform measures to reduce incarceration rates and corrections costs while improving public safety, many of which have been proven to work in other states. Examples include releasing prop 36 eligible strikers, releasing terminally ill and permanently medically incapacitated prisoners, implementing an older prisoner release program, expanding good time credits, and reforming drug sentencing laws.
According to weekly population reports from CDCR, California State prisons continue to remain crowded well-past intended design capacity. Based on the CDCR January report the recently-converted Valley State Prison for Men is at 292% capacity, and as a result of the conversion, the Central Valley Women’s Facility at 184%. The total CDCR system is at 146.1%.
“Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, they are squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons. The conversion has only aggravated overcrowding, created dangerous conditions, and caused health care to deteriorate. What’s more, they have added yet another men’s prison to their inhumane system,” says Hafsah Al-Amin from California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Hundreds of former prisoners, family members, and advocates will rally at Valley State Prison on Saturday, January 26th.
Gov. Jerry Brown railed this morning against federal oversight of California’s troubled prison system, calling it “intrusive” and “nit-picky” and vowing to fight in court to get the state out from under federal control.
A defiant Brown also lifted a state of emergency declared in 2006 by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, due to prison overcrowding.
“The prison emergency is over in California,” Brown said.
Brown’s highly public and combative appeal followed a court filing late Monday in which his administration asked a federal court to withdraw its requirement that California make further reductions in prison inmate populations, and also to end federal oversight of mental health care in state prisons. The court had requested documents explaining how the state would further reduce its prison population.
Brown said releasing prisoners would endanger the public and that options provided by the state were made “under protest.”
Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, the Brown administration has reduced California’s prison population by shifting responsibility for many newly convicted, low-level offenders from prisons to county control. Brown’s office said the inmate population in the state’s 33 prisons has been reduced by more than 43,000 since 2006, to just less than 150 percent of capacity. The state is under court order to reduce crowding to 137.5 percent of capacity.
Brown said inmates now receive better health care than outside prison and that overcrowding is no longer an issue. Brown said the California prison system is now “one of the finest prison systems in the United States” and that “the job is now complete.”
“We’ve got it,” he said. “Enough already.”
Following his morning appearance at the Capitol, Brown planned to travel to Los Angeles to address reporters this afternoon in the state’s largest media market.
“We can run our own prisons, and by God let those judges give us our prisons back,” Brown said. “We’ll run them right.”
Brown said he will fight in court “as long as it takes.” Asked why he thinks the administration could prevail in court this year, following setbacks previously, Brown said the state now has “documentary evidence to make our case.”
Brown also suggested the court may look favorably on his appointment last month of a former Pennsylvania prison chief to head California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Jeffrey Beard was a member of a 2007 panel assessing the effectiveness of California’s prison and parole systems.
“I’ve taken their own expert, and I’ve made him head of corrections,” Brown said. “What more do you want?”
Brown said further federal oversight will only waste money California can not afford to spend.
“We can’t pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration,” he said.