How will California resolve its chronic prison overcrowding problems? With court-imposed deadlines ahead, the answer is as murky as ever.
Sept. 18 Deadline Looms
In August, following class-action litigation filed by California inmates, a federal court found that the state’s prisoners were receiving Constitutionally sub-par health and mental health care because of overcrowding, and issued an order requiring the inmate population to be lowered by more than 40,000 over the next two years.
California is now out of appeals, and has no choice but to come up with a plan for reducing the prison population by Friday, September 18.
Simultaneously, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth on efforts to trim the prison budget by $1.2 billion.
The state senate bill, which Mr. Schwarzenegger supported, would have cut the prison population by 27,000 inmates, by re-categorizing some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, and releasing elderly and sick inmates early, among other strategies.
Last week, citing concerns about public safety, the state assembly passed a modified version of the bill that did away with its most controversial portions, including early release (although some nonviolent inmates will still be eligible for early release if they complete rehabilitation programs).
The assembly bill would reduce the prison population by 17,000 and tighten the prison budget by less than $1 billion.
Though last-minute negotiations threatened to derail the bill, California lawmakers agreed to adopt the assembly’s prison bill on Friday, the last day of this year’s legislative session.
The prison bill falls short of the 40,000-inmate reduction required of the state, and how the state plans to meet the federal court order remains to be seen.