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Vote on inmate reduction plan postponed

August 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's Assembly Speaker Karen Bass postponed a vote Monday on a controversial plan to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons over fears the legislation simply would not pass.A panel of federal judges has ordered California to cut its prison population by 40,000 within two years.

"When we arrive at a responsible plan that can earn the support of the majority of the Assembly and makes sense to the people of California, we will take that bill up on the Assembly floor. We will provide advance notice when a vote on the public safety package is to be scheduled," Bass said in a statement.

The Los Angeles democrat is worried that the state Senate version of the bill passed last week, with the support of republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, does not have enough support in the Assembly.

Bass already took out the most hotly-contested provisions from the legislation, among them, changing several property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors which would have kept those criminals out of prison.

In addition, Bass also got rid of a plan which would have permitted house arrest for inmates over the age of 60 if they have less than a year left to serve or if they have a valid medical reason. The inmate would be required to wear an electronic monitoring device.

The version already approved by Senate democrats would have trimmed the state's prison population by about 27,000 inmates in the first year. The inmates that would be released would be low-level offenders. That move was estimated to save the cash-strapped state $1.2 billion.

Comparatively, the Assembly's version would release about 17,000 inmates and also create a new budget gap of about $200 million.

The Assembly plan would reward inmates who complete rehabilitation programs. It offers prisoners up to four months of early release credits if they finish treatment instead of the six weeks offered in the Senate version.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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