Governor Jerry Brown believes his plan to reduce the state's prison population is on the right track, but will it be enough to satisfy the courts?
The new budget Governor Jerry Brown signed in June included a plan called "realignment" to shift tens of thousands of inmates to local jails starting October 1. It aims to fulfill orders by a three-judge panel and the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce California's prison population by 34,000 over two years.
Now a new report by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office finds the move will fall short.
"We're recommending that the state ask the three-judge panel for more time in order to reduce the prison population because we think in the longer term, the state could get there, just not within the two years," said Paul Golaszewski, lead analyst on adult corrections, Legislative Analyst's Office.
But Don Specter, an attorney for inmates and director of the Prison Law Office, says asking for more time is absurd and he will fight any move to do so. He's been trying for decades to ease overcrowding so that the state can provide medical care to prisoners that meets Constitutional standards.
Specter says 50,000 inmates are within six months of their release date and early release can immediately meet the court-ordered reduction.
"These prisoners were going to get out anyway," said Specter. "It's been proven scientifically that the advancement of their release date by just a few weeks or a month wouldn't have any adverse effect on public safety."
The Brown administration's own court filing last month said realignment will get them to 32,000, not the 34,000 the courts have asked for.
But the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is re-calculating the numbers and believes early release won't be necessary.
"I'm confident we're going to avoid any kind of federal court ordered prison release. We're doing this safety. We're doing it without freeing inmates and putting them out on the streets," said Lee Seale, director of internal oversight division, California Corrections Department.
If the courts don't order early releases, critics say it will happen anyway under realignment. They believe most local jails don't have room for the transferring state prisoners, so the local jails will have to let some inmates go.