In the state’s monthly progress report to federal judges, California acknowledges prison crowding has again begun to creep upward while Gov. Jerry Brown promises to seek legislative solutions “shortly.”
The state’s 33 prisons are now at more than 150% capacity, according to Monday’s report to the U.S. District courts. Three prisons -- North Kern, the Central California Women’s Facility, and Wasco -- are at or near 175% crowding.
Brown’s lawyers note the state has reduced its inmate population by more than 24,000 inmates since October 2011, when California began requiring low-level felons and parole violators to serve their sentences in county jails.
The state notes that its budget includes $15 million to continue to house 3,800 inmates in fire-fighting camps. For the second month in a row, Brown’s lawyers say the governor is “drafting legislative language” to take other steps to reduce crowding, including to keep more inmates in private prisons out of state, lease beds from county jails, and allow inmates who are elderly, medically frail or model prisoners to be released earlier.
“Defendants anticipate submitting this draft language to the Legislature shortly,” corrections Undersecretary Diana Toche said in a declaration accompanying the filing.
Brown has said even those measures would not be enough to meet the court-ordered prison cap of 137.5% capacity. The state argues that medical care within prisons has improved to the point that overcrowding shouldn’t matter.