Californians Praise Court Order to Immediately Reduce Prison Population

For Immediate Release – June 20th
Call for Legislature to Cancel Planned Prison Expansion and Step Up to the Plate on Sentencing Reform

Contact: Emily Harris, 510-435-1176

Sacramento – Earlier today, Governor Brown was ordered by the Federal 3 Judge Panel to immediately reduce the prison population to 137.5% of design capacity.  After the filing of an incomplete plan to the Court in May and an appeal by the Administration the Court is forcing the state to comply with the order by December 2013. According to the order, in addition to expanding fire camps and keeping people in out-of-state private prisons the Governor must either revise his proposed  good-time credit policy, identify prisoners who are unlikely to reoffend and are good candidates for early release, or substitute any measure from the list he submitted to the court in May, to reach the total reduction of 9,636 prisoners. In order to implement elements of the plan the court is immediately waiving all state and local laws and regulations.

“The Court’s order is great news. For decades, California’s budget and communities of color have been torn apart by a stubborn insistence of locking more and more people up for longer and longer times, despite clear evidence that longer sentences do not increase safety” notes Diana Zuñiga of Californians United for a Responsible Budget.  “We need to reverse this trend, and hopefully this is the first step. We hope that this decision will light a fire under the legislature and Brown to follow the opinion of the majority of Californians and make substantive reductions to our prison population.”

According to the 51-page order, the Court will not credit the Governor’s original plan to lease 1600 jail beds from Alameda and Los Angeles counties towards the reduction. “The Court’s decision that leasing jail beds would not be complying with the order builds on an earlier assertion that the state can’t build it’s way out of overcrowding and must actually lock up less people”. says Isaac Lev Szmonko of Critical Resistance. Szmonko continues, “This order gives the legislature ample reason to save itself over millions of dollars by cancelling plans to expand three California prisons.” In 2012, the Legislature approved budget trailer bill SB 1022, which included $810 million to build in-fill beds at three sites.

Since submitting a plan to the Courts in May little movement has been made by the Governor’s office to seek legislative approval on a series of population reduction measure outlined in the plan. “Let’s be clear that the specific reforms that the Governor and Legislature are resisting are letting elderly, infirm, and severely ill people to live the rest of their lives outside of cages. It’s true cowardice on the part of our elected leaders to be advocating so stubbornly to continue to lock-up grandparents,” says Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project. Reyes continues “Today’s ruling creates the political cover to finally let some of our loved ones come home”.

The Court concedes that the State needs to follow the order and report to the court bi-weekly with specific steps regarding the implementation of the amended plan.

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