Two days after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed moving thousands of prisoners to local facilities and out of state to comply with a court order to reduce California's prison population, the administration outlined the plan in a court filing this evening but suggested it is still preparing for potential inmate releases if the plan fails in the Legislature.
In a status update filed with a three-judge panel overseeing the case, the administration said the Legislature is "now actively engaged" in considering the measure. While the plan has the support of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, and the Republican leadership of both houses, the court filing did not mention significant opposition in the upper house, from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
The administration called the legislation "an additional means of complying with the population cap to avoid placing undue stress on the state's criminal justice system." However, officials said the state is "continuing to diligently develop the measures in the court-ordered plan."
In its filing, the administration said it has finalized the framework for a court-ordered early release system, ranking offenders based on criteria including a risk assessment, prior felonies and behavior while incarcerated.
Among other measures, the administration said it has identified about 1,300 inmates who could be eligible for a new parole process for low-risk elderly inmates, though it said further screening of those inmates is required. Officials said they have also identified an initial group of 42 inmates who are eligible for release under an expanded medical parole program.
Brown is under pressure to reduce the state's prison population after the U.S. Supreme Court this month rejected his effort to delay a 2009 order that the state reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity to relieve overcrowding. The administration estimates it would have to reduce the prison population by nearly 8,000 inmates to meet that target.
Under Brown's proposal, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could move 5,000 or more prisoners out of state and house others at a privately-owned facility in the Mojave Desert and at two community correctional facilities in Kern County.
The administration has estimated the cost of the plan at $315 million this budget year and $415 million in each of the following two years.
PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the breakfast in Sacramento on Thursday, May 19, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench