California has already started process for prison releases

California has already started process for prison releases
A sign warns inmates, staff and visitors that this portion of fencing at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California is electrified.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- California already has begun to comply with a federal court order to reduce its prison count by 9,600 by the end of December.

State contracts with Corrections Corp. of America to continue to house 9,000 inmates in out-of-state prisons were extended, although the contracts are not yet funded by the Legislature.


In court filings this week the state said that a process to begin identifying thousands of inmates who are near the end of their prison terms and are at the lowest risk of committing new crimes if released early would be finished in two weeks.

The complicated task of recalculating the sentence reductions that inmates have earned for good behavior and completing prison rehabilitation programs also has begun.


The corrections department has already developed criteria to expand medical parole, and the court-appointed agency in charge of prison healthcare has selected 900 inmates for those releases. The relaxed criteria will allow those who have chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or end-stage liver disease to be sent home or to assisted living centers on the outside.

Corrections officials decided it would be easiest to begin those medical parole hearings for inmates at the Central California Women’s Facility near Chowchilla, since they don’t have access to the newly built prison medical facility for men at Stockton.

Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the medical receiver’s office, said the parole process for the first 30 prisoners already has begun.

In documents filed with federal judges Thursday, the state continued to ask for assurances that the federal judges were sincere in waiving state laws and regulations that would prevent expanded parole, private prisons and early releases.

“There seem to be a lot of stalls,” said Michael Bien, the lead lawyer in the class-action lawsuit over prison mental healthcare. “Maybe they were waiting for the Supreme Court to rescue them.”



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On Twitter: @paigestjohn

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