Calif. cuts inmate numbers as it awaits high court

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide within weeks whether federal judges can order California to reduce the inmate population in its overstuffed prisons, but the state already has taken steps that will limit the consequences if the court rules against it.

Moreover, a new state law would remove even more inmates than the federal courts contemplated. However it rules, the high court still will set a nationwide precedent as it determines the authority of federal judges to intervene in states’ operations of their prison systems.

California operates the nation’s largest state prison system and currently houses 142,600 inmates in its 33 adult prisons. That’s down from a high of 162,268 in 2006, or a decline of 12.1 percent over five years. The state has another 20,000 inmates housed in private prisons in other states, and in firefighting camps and community correctional facilities within California.

The state would have to reduce its inmate population by an additional 33,000—or 23 percent—if the justices uphold a panel of federal judges that found crowding had led to unconstitutionally poor medical and mental health care within the system. The judicial panel, based in San Francisco, ruled in August 2009 that the state’s prisons can hold no more than about 110,000 inmates.

California would meet, and perhaps even exceed, that target if a bill signed earlier this year takes effect. That law would reduce the prison population by about 40,000 inmates by transferring many low-level offenders to county jurisdiction.

“If we get an adverse decision, we’ll be well on our way to reducing our crowding levels to the levels mandated by the courts,” state Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said in an interview.

The catch in the new California law is that it cannot take effect unless it is funded.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, says the money to reimburse counties for taking the 40,000 offenders is contained in his budget plan, which calls for a mix of spending cuts and a renewal of recent tax increases to close what had been a $26.6 billion deficit.

Democratic lawmakers already have taken steps to eliminate much of the deficit, primarily through spending cuts, but a $15.4 billion shortfall remains.

Brown is using the pending Supreme Court decision to pressure Republican lawmakers to support putting the tax extensions before voters in a special election. He wants voters to decide whether to extend for five years increases enacted two years ago in the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes, which would bring in about $9.2 billion a year. All the taxes will expire by June 30.

“We stand under the Sword of Damocles of the United States Supreme Court, which by the middle of June will be rendering a decision which in all probability will demand the release of tens of thousands of people currently housed in our prisons,” Brown said during a Capitol news conference last week. “The only question is, ‘Are we going to handle it properly, with a plan? Or are we just going to react without the money, without the realignment, and in a way that will be ultimately self-defeating?'”

As attorney general, Brown fought the federal intervention.

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4 thoughts on “Calif. cuts inmate numbers as it awaits high court

  1. Has anyone noticed that CA is playing a shell game? Just move the inmates under a different shell and pretend they’re not there. Whether the inmates are incarcerated in prison, in state, out of state or in jail, they’re still CA prisoners. Whether in a state-run or a private-run prison, it’s still a prison. And guess who these facilities are staffed by? Members of the CCPOA, the CA prison guards’ union, one of the most powerful unions in the state with lots of money. These same union members are employed by the CDCR, oh that’s right, the state corrections and “rehabilitation” department. So naturally they have a vested interest in keeping more people locked up for longer time. This same union was the moving force behind the enactment of the 3-strikes laws. These are the people spouting the rhetoric that the inmates are “the worst of the worst” and other propaganda. That if we get “tough on crime” we’ll protect our loved ones.
    The problem is that the CCPOA is so powerful, no one can get elected if the union is against them. They will hire a bank of workers, and two weeks before an election, they’ll call every registered voter in a district and slander a candidate. By the time the candidate realizes what happened, the damage has been done and they lose the election.
    Why not take away the political power of the union? That might help. Oh, wait, they’d vote against that, because the CCPOA has funded the election campaign of EVERY single legislator. This way the assembly and the senate won’t bite the hand that fed them and vote against any potential laws that limit the power of the CCPOA..


  2. Hey Marty, thanks for your support & right on target comments….CA is slowly ( or not so slowly) making its own demise…three strikes and its application is nothing more than a death sentence…its crooked and its not fair at all. Dont even get me started on Jerry Brown and the CCPOA….There is no justice….not even for victims…..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Why are we all still playing a game here in Calif. ? 3 strikes and you are out ? Why is it we all cannot agree on something that we all have already agree-ed on ?

    California’s 3 strike law is a 110% complete failure. Jessica’s law, making, yes making parolee’s homeless.
    Whoa now! don’t get me wrong, I am terribly sorry that something happened to this little ones, The indivisuals that committed these crimes are locked up and my hopes that they not ever will be released not to mentioned find relief, or ????

    Do not I repeat do not place everyone in the same category. That is wrong!! There are people on parole today that have a indecent exposure conviction that must register as a 290 and all that it entails. Yes ! Indecent exposure in a hospital E.R, Examination room!!!!!

    Calif. needs to re-write there 3 strikes law and be rid of the 85% or 80% or two strikes and you get your sentence doubled. Ridiculous !!!! Where is the rehalbilitation ? In C.D.C.’R’. Oh its just an ‘R’. I get it. they needed to show change, “look everyone we added rehalbilitation to our system, the ‘R’ proves it !”

    Calif. prisons are overcrowded because of these fore mentioned laws ‘AND’ there parole system. Fix the parole system, Abolish the hidden 4th year of parole. Ask yourself these questions; How many parollee’s are in custody in prison serving that hidden 4th year of parole. Do a survey.

    With the suggestion of abolishing the hidden 4th year of parole think of the money that would be saved .


    #1 prison population reduction, ‘immediate’

    #2 No job loosses, i.e. parole officers, on the contrary this would only decrease there case loads and there stress level so they could perform there job more sufficent and perhaps actually discover abducted little girls that are held captive for 18 years in a false backyard.

    #3 Reduce the number of homeless men and women because of the ridiculous 2000 foot restriction on a residence. Hmm! that restriction was lifted in L.A. County, how is that possible to do that in only part of the state ? Are not all calif. parolee’s from calif.? Do not all Calif. parolee’s live in calif.? are they not or did they not all serve there time i’in calif. prison’s? How is this fair? how is this ‘not’ discrmination to ‘part of the state! ???

    No I do not understand someone help me.

    I will close with a brief word about San Quinten State Prison.

    I personally have stood on the backdock of the main kitchen and thrown whole pieces of bread down on the roadway and witnessed the overgrown disease infested larger than hose-cats ‘rats’ scirmy out of the cracks and gaps in the walls to eat the bread and sirmy away again. Cockroaches are everywhere, ask the maintence people/crew. dead rats and cockroaches by the thousands ‘in’ the main kitchen.

    All true don’t just believe me go look for yourselves…


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