SACRAMENTO -- Talk of a sentencing commission and promises of "comprehensive and sustainable" changes in prisons have won Gov. Jerry Brown a two-year delay in orders to reduce prison crowding.
A panel of three federal judges issued their order Monday morning giving Brown until Feb. 28, 2016, to reduce crowding to 137.5% of what the state's prisons were built to hold. View the order here.
The order puts California on a time table for those reductions, requiring that prison crowding be lowered to 143% by June 30 of this year. And it limits the number of inmates California can send out of state to private prisons to current levels, about 8,900 inmates.
The order "acknowledges" that the state intends to meet crowding caps in part by increasing its use of contracted prison cells in county jails, community-run correctional facilities and private prisons within the state's borders. But it orders the governor to "immediately implement" expanded parole programs and early release credits Brown had proposed earlier this year.
They include allowing non-violent second-strikers to shave off up to one-third of their sentences through good behavior and participation in rehabilitation programs, and eligibility for parole from prison when they have served half of their sentences.
The judges also ordered the state to finalize an expanded parole process for medically incapacitated inmates, and for those older than 60 who have served at least 25 years.
If California misses any of the benchmarks, the judges have given a court-appointed officer the power to release as many inmates as needed to bring the state into compliance, from a list of "low-risk" inmates created by the state.
As part of the deal with the court, Brown had promised not to launch further appeals of the order.
[Updated 11:13 a.m. PST, Feb. 10: California currently has 117,600 prisoners in prisons built to hold 81,574 inmates, according to the latest population reports from the corrections department. It has 3,390 prisoners in contracted cells within the state and 8,846 in private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Projections from the state show the prison population growing by some 10,000 inmates over the next four years.]