Guv Challenges Further Reduction in Inmate Population; Cites Progress Under Realignment

This week Governor Brown announced that “the prison emergency is over in California” and that the state no longer has crowded prisons. That statement might raise a few eyebrows, but Brown is looking to end federal oversight of the state’s prison population and his administration filed court documents in order to ask judges to do away with reduction plans imposed on the state.

You’ll recall that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that required California to reduce its prison population by 33,000 because poor conditions from overcrowding violated inmates' constitutional rights. But the state has called the population cap “arbitrary.”

The state is pointing to the progress it has made under realignment -- shifting more responsibility to counties -- as a strong reason that the courts should back off. The state argues that forcing California to reduce its prison population beyond current numbers would needlessly jeopardize public safety.

The court filings read: “The overcrowding and health care conditions cited by this Court to support its population reduction order are now a distant memory. California's vastly improved prison health care system now provides inmates with superior care that far exceeds the minimum requirements of the Constitution.”

The filing goes on to say: “The population in the state's 33 prisons has been reduced by over 24,000 inmates since October 2011 when public safety realignment went into effect, by more than 36,000 inmates compared to the 2008 population in the record at the evidentiary hearing, and by nearly 42,000 inmates since 2006 when plaintiffs moved to convene the three-judge court.”

Another feather in the governor’s cap is the passage of Proposition 30, which provides counties the funding they need to maintain realignment.

Critics contend the state still has a long ways to go when it comes to adopting alternative sentencing and enhanced rehabilitation programs. See more here.

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