SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown is back on the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking permission to go ahead with contracts that would send thousands more California inmates to private prisons out of state.
The governor on Thursday told federal judges in California that he is appealing their order blocking him from leasing the new beds while the administration is in talks with inmates' lawyers on long-term solutions to prison crowding.
The governor's lawyers at the same time announced a similar appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that would be taken up if the Supreme Court refuses to hear Brown's case.
The governor's filings cite California's recent legislation approving expansion of private prison contracts, along with continued state funding of probation programs meant to lower crime rates. Based on that law, Brown had asked federal judges for an extra three years to end prison overcrowding.
The judges have approved only a two-month delay, until late February. They also ordered the negotiations with prisoners' lawyers.
"The state is appealing to protect California's right to implement SB 105 [the new law], in the event that California is not granted additional time to comply with the court-ordered prison population cap," corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a written statement.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he viewed the governor's appeal as a "procedural move" to protect his legal options.
"It's my expectation that the administration will continue good faith negotiations to reach a durable solution as we prioritized" in the legislation, Steinberg said in an email.
Nevertheless, Steinberg renewed his opposition to more use of private prisons, calling them a "waste of taxpayer resources" that "fails to address the true reason for continuous overcrowding.
"Tax dollars will be better spent assuring that people who leave jail and prison have the tools to avoid returning," he said. "That is the end the state should continue to seek with the court's help."
The Supreme Court earlier this month refused to hear Brown's second appeal of the prison population cap.