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Further Inmate Release Could Be Required Despite Governor’s Executive Order Ending Prison System Emergency

January 8, 2013

Today, Gov. Jerry Brown held a press conference regarding his Executive Order to end the emergency in California’s prison system.

 

The order includes requests to terminate federal oversight of prison health care, lift the cap on inmate population and includes a plan examining options for further population reductions through inmate releases. The federal district court is expected to respond to the state’s filings on the prison system, particularly the inmate population reduction plan, within 30 days.

In May 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling by a federal three-judge panel that ordered California to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity. Since 2011, when realignment took effect, prison population reductions have been primarily accomplished due to the transfer of low-level offenders from state to county authority.

Low-level offenders who have served their full term in state prison are now supervised post-release by counties and newly convicted low-level offenders were transferred to county facilities to serve their sentence, instead of state prison. Following the passage of Proposition 30, realignment funding is now protected with a constitutional guarantee. During the press conference, Gov. Brown acknowledged that there may be need to adjust the realignment funding formulas but stressed that “no one will get everything they want.”

If the federal district court rejects the request to lift the cap on inmate population, further inmate release could be required in order to meet the Court’s order. According to Terri McDonald, undersecretary of operations, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California’s prison systems are still at 150 percent of design capacity.

The state’s options for further inmate reduction include:

  • Capacity solutions. Retaining the out-of-state beds (i.e. no California inmate currently serving a sentence in an out-of-state prison will be immediately released.)  The focus will be on releasing (if any releases occur) those inmates who are in California facilities.
  • Changes in credit earnings (Time Off for Good Behavior).

    • Inmates in Fire Camp and other Minimum Security settings. Every day served with good behavior will result in 2 days off an inmate’s sentence

    • Serious/Violent Felons. These offenders currently can get a sentence reduction of 15-20 percent for good behavior. The plan submitted to federal court will increase that to 33 percent off a sentence for good behavior

    • Inmates will get 6 weeks taken off their sentences for:

      • Completion of a college degree;
      • Completion of a GED (General Equivalency Diploma); and
      • Completion of a substance abuse counseling course.

The plan also includes five categories of felonies that will be reduced to misdemeanors. However the only offense confirmed for this reduction is automobile theft.

Next Steps

Once the federal district court responds to the state’s filings, further direction on whether the Governor’s plan will move forward will be made available. Until that time, for more information regarding the Executive Order please read the Governor’s press release, which includes the text of the Executive Order, please visit his website.



 
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