Capitol Alert

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By Brad Branan

California will rely on county jails, community correctional facilities and out-of-state prisons to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year, the state's corrections secretary said Monday.

Jeffrey Beard outlined the planned response during a meeting with The Bee's Editorial Board three days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's request to delay a federal court order to reduce prison crowding by December. The reduction is necessary to improve substandard health care in the prisons, the courts have ruled.

How much the state will use each reduction option depends in part on how the three-judge panel overseeing the case responds to questions from the state, Beard said. The Brown administration needs to know if it can appropriate funding without legislative approval to pay for increased incarceration costs, he said.

The court must approve the state's options for inmate reduction in general, he said.

Each option has its limitations. Many county jails have limited space, a problem that has grown more acute since October 2011, when the state started sentencing lower level offenders to jail instead of prison, in part in response to the federal lawsuit. Jails have been forced to release more inmates since that time.

"We just got through a major readjustment," Beard said. "A number of counties are struggling with this."

So far, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has identified Los Angeles and Alameda counties as having available space for contracting with the state. Los Angeles County has 1,000 beds and Alameda County has 600 available.

The state faces another obstacle with out-of-state incarceration: California can't move prisoners to another state without the inmate's consent, Beard said.

Finally, the state may reopen two community correctional facilities in Kern County to handle another 1,100 inmates, he said.


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