[Ppnews] Federal Judges Again Order Gov Brown to Release 10, 000 Prisoners

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 20 19:17:04 EDT 2013

  Judges: Brown must fully comply with prison order

June 20, 2013


Complete 51-page order 

By DON THOMPSON --- Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. --- A panel of federal judges on Thursday rejected 
Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to circumvent its long-standing order for 
reducing California's prison population, the latest step in an ongoing 
legal drama over how to improve inmates' medical and mental health care 

Brown quickly announced that he will ask the courts to stay what he 
called an "unprecedented order to release almost 10,000 inmates by the 
end of this year." The governor already filed notice that he intends to 
appeal the latest order to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judges stopped just short of citing the Democratic governor for 
contempt of court, but again threatened to do so if he does not 
immediately comply with their latest order.

The plan submitted by the Brown administration in May to further reduce 
the inmate population failed to meet the judges' mandate because it fell 
short of the court-ordered population cap by 2,300 inmates, the judges 
said in their 51-page order. That previous population reduction order 
has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judges reiterated in their sharply worded ruling that the governor 
must comply with the original order to reduce the population to 110,000 
inmates by the end of the year. They ordered Brown to take all the steps 
he outlined in May, as well as one more step - the expansion of 
good-time credits leading to early release. Brown had offered that as an 
option, but it was not one he was willing to embrace.

The governor's plan for getting closer to the required level called for 
sending more inmates to firefighting camps, leasing cells at county 
jails, slowing the return of thousands of inmates now housed in private 
prisons in other states, increasing early release credits for nonviolent 
inmates and paroling elderly felons.

The judges ordered the administration to implement all the measures 
regardless of whether they conflict with state or local laws.

At issue is how far the state must go in reducing its inmate population 
to meet a previous court order to improve medical and mental health 
treatment. The courts have said that prison overcrowding is the main 
cause of care that fails to meet the constitutional guarantee against 
cruel and unusual punishment.

The order leaves Brown with no more excuses, said Don Specter, director 
of the nonprofit Prison Law Office and one of the lead attorneys 
representing inmates' welfare.

"The court's order is absolutely essential to maintaining prison 
conditions that protect prisoners from serious illness and death due to 
inadequate health care," Specter said. The court had no choice because 
Brown and Democrats who control the state Legislature were refusing to 
comply with its previous orders, he said.

However, the judges offered the state some flexibility in how it complies.

The administration can revise the expanded good-time credit program, so 
long as the changes still result in the required population reduction. 
It can also pick and choose among inmates, substituting those who are 
deemed less likely to commit new crimes for riskier convicts who would 
otherwise be released early. Or, it can pick any other measure that was 
previously on the administration's list of options.

But if the population goal is not met through other means by Dec. 31, 
"defendants shall release the necessary number of prisoners to reach 
that goal" by using a list of lower-risk inmates that the state has 
previously said it could develop.

Though Brown argues otherwise, the court has found that "there is no 
public safety issue" with the earlier releases, said Michael Bien, the 
lead attorney representing mentally ill inmates.

The state has reduced its prison population by more than 46,000 inmates 
since 2006, with more than half the decrease due to a 2-year-old state 
law that is sentencing lower-level criminals to county jails instead of 
state prisons. But the population remains about 9,400 inmates over the 
level required by the courts.

The state has said it can whittle the population further by the end of 
the year but would remain 2,300 inmates over the court-ordered number.

The administration said it is doing everything it can under California 
law, but that Brown's reluctantly adopted plan had little support from 
state lawmakers. Specter said Thursday's ruling removes that obstacle.

The judges warned Brown in April that he could no longer ignore its 
orders. They opted in their latest order not to cite Brown for contempt, 
though they said they would be well justified if they were to "institute 
contempt proceedings immediately."

They decided to delay a contempt citation until they see if the state 
complies with their new order. However, they warned that failing to 
comply now with the latest order "shall constitute an act of contempt."

Read more here: 

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