New State Prison Budget Assumes Two-Year Extension in Population Cap Order

January 10, 2014 8:30 am · 16 comments

The head of California’s prisons said today that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $9.8 billion budget for corrections in the next fiscal year is aimed at creating a “safer, more efficient prison system” and reducing repeat offenses.

But Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeffrey Beard said the budget plan assumes the state will be granted at least a two-year extension for meeting a court-ordered cap on the prison population.

If the extension is not granted, Beard said, a $315 million fund that was partly intended for reducing recidivism will instead be used to contract for space for several thousand inmates in in-state and out-of-state facilities.

If the extension is allowed, up to $195 million of that fund would go to a recidivism reduction program, according to figures in a budget summary by Brown’s office.

“We hope to hear in the next several weeks from the court,” Beard said in a telephone news conference.

The planned prison spending was announced by Brown today as part of the proposed state budget for the fiscal 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

A limit on the population of the state’s overcrowded prisons was ordered in 2009 by a panel of three federal judges, who said that reducing the number of inmates was necessary to bring what it called “woefully inadequate” health care to minimal constitutional standards.

The order was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011. It requires the state to reduce the population to 137.5 percent of the prisons’ designed capacity.

The current population of the state’s 34 adult facilities is 118,633 and the design capacity is 81,574. The court order thus requires a reduction of 6,469 inmates to 112,164, according to department spokesman Jeffrey Callison.

The three-judge panel has previously granted several extensions of the population cap order, most recently until April 18. It has also ordered confidential settlement talks between state lawyers and attorneys for prisoners, with state Court of Appeal Justice Peter Siggins acting as a mediator. The deadline for the talks to end is Friday.

The state asked for a three-year extension of the population limit in a Sept. 16 filing, but the court has not taken any action on the request while the settlement talks were under way, according to Donald Specter, a lawyer for the inmates.

Specter said lawyers for the inmates will oppose an extension. “There’s a lot of things they can do to release prisoners safely,” Specter said.

“I think it’s a poor policy decision” to increase capacity instead of releasing more prisoners, “but that’s a decision they’re entitled to make,” he said.

Specter declined to comment on the progress of the settlement talks. Beard said in his news conference, “We think the talks have gone well, so we’re hopeful.”

The three-judge panel is made up of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles and U.S. district judges Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento.

Henderson and Karlton are presiding over two long-running civil rights cases in which inmates are challenging prison medical care and mental health care.

The panel was convened under a federal law that provides that a civil-rights order to reduce inmate population can be made only by a three-judge court, rather than by a single judge, and only as a last resort.

Beard said today that some reduction in population, but not the full amount needed, will be accomplished by expanding early release of seriously ill prisoners, establishing a process for early release of elderly prisoners who do not endanger public safety, and increasing good-time credits for some non-violent offenders.

Those measures were ordered in June by the federal panel, which mandated a waiver of state laws and regulations that would otherwise have blocked those releases.

The inmate numbers have previously been reduced by about 25,000 by the state’s realignment policy, which shifts low-level offenders to county jails. The prisons had a peak population of 162,500 in 2006.

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Mike troll Dame January 10, 2014 at 8:38 AM

we need to make a deal with Sweden to send our criminals there since they plan on closing their prisons due to lack of criminals

anonymous January 10, 2014 at 8:39 AM

Send them out of state?

Paranoid January 10, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Safer more efficient prisons at the cost of safety for the public. Criminals will be let off with a slap an the hands and be asked ” please don’t commit another crime”

Julie January 10, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Reducing repeat offenses? Not sure how that works, but it sounds good.

The only way to keep these guys from leading a life of crime is to get to them before they start.

California Nghtmare January 10, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Far left democrats like Desaulnier and Bonilla think convicts are actually victims of circumstance and should be freed from the oppression of prison injustice.

That is why they have repeatedly voted for budgets which gut prisons and jails. From their Alice in Wonderland world view, criminals are victims.

Anon January 10, 2014 at 9:39 AM

What a joke
just like public safety
blame the ACLU
when non-violent’s
come for us

Idiocracy January 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM

I’m in favor of the Cool hand Luke method! We have a lot of roads in need of repair and why not put these morons to work (dressed in hot pink like that Arizona prison). lol I mean seriously we are way to easy on criminals. Open up Alcatraz! How about we use prison Lifers for their organs to save the innocent and needy? Cruel you say = yes, but most these ppl are animals and in no way valuable to humanity.

Dorothy January 10, 2014 at 11:34 AM

“safer, more efficient prison system” – for whom? The prisoners, the guards, or the public? Anyone notice a rise in “non-violent” crimes?

jets January 10, 2014 at 12:28 PM

thats a great idea, release them from prison and put the cons supervision in the hands of the very week ccc probation department, and not the state parole department, what a joke

jets January 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

the ccc probation dept. will make the con write an apology letter to the probation officer when he violates the supervision instead of putting him back in jail, what a joke

jets January 10, 2014 at 12:35 PM

it’s true, my friend works their and told me that’s what the probation officers have them do

Don't Censor Me Bro January 10, 2014 at 12:44 PM

@jets have your friend cite recidivism stats comparing and contrasting probation/parole’s success to date, such that YOU can back up your assertions, if you are capable, that is???

Anon January 10, 2014 at 2:54 PM

You want real change, then stop voting for morons like DeSaulnier and Bonilla who seem to care less about common sense than their own wealth and power. Vote anyone out who thinks prisons need to fun places.

Your Reward For Voting democrat January 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Still need to release 6,469 inmates, good luck finding them. After AB-109 was signed first ones on the buses to County were the Felons with very expensive medical needs along and those with disabilities.
Lawyers are having a field day filing lawsuits over medical issues not being addressed. One instance a legally blind inmate was housed in a second floor cell of jail module and fell down the stairs, … Lawsuit.

Feckless democrat controlled state government shoved their overcrowding problem onto the 58 counties. Counties were even made responsible for supervising those on parole except for a very few offenses.

Simply, democrats including Assemblywoman Bonilla and State Senator DeSaulnier both voted in Favor of AB-109 which made State Prison overcrowding no longer, Their Problem.

Waldo January 10, 2014 at 3:59 PM

I heard on the radio that the released convicts were to receive 1000 bucks a month from the gov in efforts to reduce crime. Rewarding those that fail is the name of the game it appears.
If all of the illegals were sent home the prison population would be manageable and the money could be used to address other issues, such as prison healthcare, exploding RFIDs planted in the illegals brains to keep them away from the borders, and building factories that the current inmates can work in so there will be less need to buy crap from our friends in China, who love the USA so dearly.

Ralph January 10, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Unions will file a lawsuit if prison workers are used for labor in California, I agree put prisoners to work, preferably making gravel from large boulders.

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