California officials reach deal to seek compliance with prison order

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SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced Monday a deal to seek more time to cut California’s prison population by expanding rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing the number of former inmates committing new crimes.

However, the state is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to house inmates in private prisons and other facilities if the request for an extension is rejected by a panel of three federal judges.

The judges, who have deemed California prisons unconstitutionally crowded, have given state officials until Dec. 31 to reduce the prison population by thousands.


The deal on prisons resolves a dispute in the Capitol over how to handle the court order.

The governor’s original plan, which was backed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Republican lawmakers, was to spend more than $1.1 billion over the next three years to house inmates in private prisons, county jails and other facilities. Administration officials have already begun preparing to move inmates out of state prisons.

Meanwhile, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wanted to extend the court order by three years, giving the state more time to expand mental-health and drug-rehabilitation programs that could reduce the number of former inmates committing new crimes and returning to prison.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found flaws in both approaches. Brown’s plan would only work in the short term, a recent report said, and prisons would still have too many inmates a few years down the line. The report also said Steinberg’s proposal would take effect too slowly.


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Twitter: @chrismegerian