SACRAMENTO -- Conceding that California won't meet a federal court deadline to reduce prison overcrowding, Gov. Jerry Brown is moving ahead with plans to expand parole programs to include the frail, mentally impaired and elderly, while seeking to fund another wave of jail expansion, according to his proposed budget.
Brown also wants to immediately change state policy to allow some jailed felons to further shorten their sentences.
The moves are announced in his 2014-15 budget plan, due to be released Thursday but leaked to reporters Wednesday evening and verified by a source close to the budget process.
Under the new program, prisoners over 60 years old who have served at least 25 years would be eligible to be considered for parole. So, too, would inmates who suffer severe medical conditions or who are mentally impaired.
Brown's budget says inmates serving doubled sentences under the state's Three Strikes law, but whose second offense was not violent, will now be able to shave off a third of their time. Previously, they were limited by law to a 20% reduction.
Brown uses his spending plan to also announce support for split sentences, requiring judges to reduce local jail terms for felons but adding time for community probation. Judges would be able to sentence a felon to jail alone only if they identified a reason. Brown's budget document says the change will help offenders get access to community services while helping jails reduce crowding.
The governor includes $500 million in his budget for another round of county jail expansion grants, on top of $1.7 billion already pledged by the state.
If by April federal judges delay their order for reduced prison crowding, Brown's plan would divert the $40 million that otherwise would have been spent to lease private prison beds to community reentry programs for state prisoners. He would divert another $12 million to expand substance abuse treatment centers at 10 state prisons, and set aside $11 million to expand mental health programs for parolees.
Brown addresses federal court reports of unsanitary conditions at prison medical centers by adding $14.5 million for janitorial services from the state-owned Prison Industry Authority. He adds $14 million to catch drugs and contraband being smuggled into prisons, and $62 million to expand training for prison guards while shortening the duration of academy schooling.