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California Prisons: Governor Jerry Brown Has a Plan

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 09, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Here's the latest on the California prison debacle:

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order to the Golden State: Fix your prisons! The U.S. Supreme Court order essentially upheld a lower court ruling that required California to reduce the number of inmates in its jails by 23 percent.

The State of California has overcrowded prisons with deplorable conditions. But what to do?

Earlier this week, reports The Wall Street Journal, California unveiled a plan to deal with the prisons problem. The plan involves moving low-level offenders to county jails and building new prisons to accommodate more serious offenders.

While it looks like California is trying to come up with a solution, not all are cheering. According to The Journal, "Some local sheriffs said they fear the state would begin to transfer inmates without any support. Greg Munks, sheriff of San Mateo County, which is just south of San Francisco, said the release order would require the state to send an additional 500 inmates to his lockup, which already is at 120% of capacity with 1,000 inmates. Mr. Munks said the added prisoners could force him to release some inmates."

What does this mean for California? Well, to begin with, the solution seems to present a lose-lose situation. After all, the Supreme Court's order can't be complied with in time, a panel of judges could actually order the state to start releasing inmates.

And let's not ignore costs. How is California expected to pay for the new prisons they intend to build?

The answer: Taxes.

The Sacramento Bee reports that Governor Brown wants $6 billion a year from tax revenue to go to county governments to ship inmates to the county prisons.

There is also talk of shipping inmates to out-of-state prisons, reports the Bee.

Here's the final blow: The California state lawmakers are coming up close to a deadline for passing the budget, with four hold-out Republicans. What if Governor Brown doesn't get their vote?

Rebekah Evanson of the Prison Law Office was the lawyer for the inmates who initiated the suit. She didn't say what she thought the Supreme Court should do if Brown can't get the required votes on the budget but she did say, "compliance is a matter of political will."

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