Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the prison overcrowding lawsuits said Wednesday they support a proposal by state Senate Democrats to increase spending on rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment programs instead of expanding prison cells.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and 16 other Democratic senators proposed a plan that would spend $200 million more for each of the first two years on rehab and mental health programs to reduce the prison population by the 9,600 inmates ordered by federal judges.
Steinberg asked the plaintiffs' attorneys to settle the case but provide a three-year extension for meeting the inmate population cap.
The court order requires the reduction by the end of this year, and Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to meet the target by spending $315 million this year to provide alternative housing for prisoners.
“We are ready and willing to sit down with the governor and his counsel to discuss ways to end federal court oversight,” the plaintiffs' attorneys said in a statement. “Sen. Steinberg's substantive proposals are acceptable to us and we are open to an extension of the date for compliance with the three-judge court's order if an agreement produces an effective and sustainable approach that will resolve the chronic overcrowding problem in the state’s prisons.”
Donald Specter, one of the attorneys, said the length of the extension would be negotiable and he is not committing at this point to the three years proposed by Steinberg.
He also supported the Senate Democrats' proposal to create a public safety commission to look at restructuring sentencing laws.
"The governor's plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the prison system for low-risk prisoners will not make the public any safer,”the statement said.