Gov. Jerry Brown railed this morning against federal oversight of California's troubled prison system, calling it "intrusive" and "nit-picky" and vowing to fight in court to get the state out from under federal control.
A defiant Brown also lifted a state of emergency declared in 2006 by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, due to prison overcrowding.
"The prison emergency is over in California," Brown said.
Brown's highly public and combative appeal followed a court filing late Monday in which his administration asked a federal court to withdraw its requirement that California make further reductions in prison inmate populations, and also to end federal oversight of mental health care in state prisons. The court had requested documents explaining how the state would further reduce its prison population.
Brown said releasing prisoners would endanger the public and that options provided by the state were made "under protest."
Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, the Brown administration has reduced California's prison population by shifting responsibility for many newly convicted, low-level offenders from prisons to county control. Brown's office said the inmate population in the state's 33 prisons has been reduced by more than 43,000 since 2006, to just less than 150 percent of capacity. The state is under court order to reduce crowding to 137.5 percent of capacity.
Brown said inmates now receive better health care than outside prison and that overcrowding is no longer an issue. Brown said the California prison system is now "one of the finest prison systems in the United States" and that "the job is now complete."
"We've got it," he said. "Enough already."
Following his morning appearance at the Capitol, Brown planned to travel to Los Angeles to address reporters this afternoon in the state's largest media market.
"We can run our own prisons, and by God let those judges give us our prisons back," Brown said. "We'll run them right."
Brown said he will fight in court "as long as it takes." Asked why he thinks the administration could prevail in court this year, following setbacks previously, Brown said the state now has "documentary evidence to make our case."
Brown also suggested the court may look favorably on his appointment last month of a former Pennsylvania prison chief to head California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Jeffrey Beard was a member of a 2007 panel assessing the effectiveness of California's prison and parole systems.
"I've taken their own expert, and I've made him head of corrections," Brown said. "What more do you want?"
Brown said further federal oversight will only waste money California can not afford to spend.
"We can't pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration," he said.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up a proclamation which terminates a 2006 Prison Overcrowding Emergency Proclamation as he leaves the State Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton