By Howard Mintz
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration had a clear message Tuesday for the three federal judges who have ordered California to rid its overcrowded prisons of tens of thousands of inmates — trust us, we have a plan.
In court papers filed on the governor’s behalf, state officials assured a three-judge panel they have the right plan to comply with an order to shed more than 30,000 inmates from California’s overcrowded prison system. But the eight-page outline remained unclear on how the state will pay for the dramatic shift and hinted prison officials may have trouble meeting court-ordered deadlines to clear prison space within two years.
Brown’s legislation, stalled without funding at this point, would shift most low-level, nonviolent inmates from the state prison system to the county jails, a move that would for the most part satisfy a demand to cut the overall inmate population by about a quarter from its highest levels of a few years ago.
The governor’s lawyers did not ask the judges for more time to carry out the plan, but indicated they will do just that if the money isn’t found soon in California’s troubled budget process. Brown is hoping to pay the counties for absorbing tens of thousands of prison inmates through the extensions of sales tax increases and vehicle license fees, but such tax increases are strongly opposed by Republican lawmakers, leaving the inmate transfer plan in limbo.
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