Brown seeks more time to meet goals in reducing prison crowding

Inmate at California Health Care Facility
An inmate sits in a courtyard at the California Health Care Facility outside Stockton. A federal judge Tuesday ordered California to stop the practice of temporarily housing disabled inmates in isolation units while awaiting suitable cell assignments.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Regrouping after federal judges told the state it cannot count empty medical beds as reductions in prison crowding, Gov. Jerry Brown is asking for more time to meet the court’s looming deadlines.

In a motion filed Monday to the panel of three federal judges overseeing conditions in California prisons, Brown’s lawyers asked for a two-month extension to meet the panel’s first deadline to reduce crowding, a benchmark toward limits on crowding that have been already delayed several years.

The state was to have reduced crowding within its prisons to 143% of capacity by Monday, but one week earlier was told it could not count the empty medical beds at its Stockton prison to offset greater crowding elsewhere. Failure to meet the benchmark was to have automatically triggered the release of prisoners by a court-appointed overseer.

However, the judges last week said state officials “reasonably” might have believed California could include the 2,350 beds in the partially opened Stockton facility in its calculations. “We will, if requested, grant defendants an extension” of up to two months, they wrote.


California’s motion Monday said the state has used its “best efforts” to bring crowding down, reducing the number of prisoners within state-owned facilities by 1,200 in the last five months.

The medical side of the Stockton prison was closed to new admissions due to the death of an inmate, a scabies outbreak and chronic understaffing and shortages of medical and living supplies.

Brown’s lawyers say they expect admissions to be allowed again by late August, which would allow the state to count those beds and meet the current crowding limit.

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