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Jerry Brown: New inmate housing to cost state hundreds of millions

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. -- Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that California would have to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars to house inmates under a court order, and that he expects the Legislature to appropriate that money later this year.

Brown said the additional funding will be necessary to comply with a federal court ruling that found the state’s prison system has nearly 9,600 inmates more than it can adequately handle.

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“We are not going to do a mass release,” Brown said during an interview at the annual Lake Tahoe environment summit of federal, California and Nevada officials, adding that “there’s already a lot of pressure” on local jurisdictions in the wake of his 2011 plan to direct new inmates to county jails.

“To further impact that with 10,000 more people would not be a prudent decision, so I’m not going to do that. Therefore, we are going to have to make some investment,” he said.

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The proposed new spending will put pressure on a state budget that was balanced this summer with the help of billions of dollars in new taxes approved by voters.

The governor did not specify whether the money, if approved, would be spent on new prison beds within California or on housing additional inmates out of state. In June, he submitted a plan to comply with the court ruling that included both options.

The governor continued to lash out at the court order, saying the federal judges behind it picked an “arbitrary number” to determine the capacity of the state’s prisons.

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“There is no evidence that I think is credible that says we are over capacity,” he said.

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