"Today we are faced with a choice of releasing thousands of dangerous criminals early or keeping them locked up. The governor's plan will keep them locked up," said Jeffrey Beard, California corrections secretary.
But a Senate panel panned Gov. Jerry Brown's prison proposal to spend more than $700 million over two years to house nearly 10,000 inmates in private or out-of-state facilities. The courts have ordered the reduction by Dec. 31 or judges could order early releases. Committee members are worried about the cost.
"Money does not grow on trees, and we do have to make priorities here," said state Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona).
Committee members instead approved Senate President Darrell Steinberg's plan to ask the courts for a three-year extension to ease prison over-crowding and invest $200 million a year in rehabilitation and counseling to reduce the likelihood criminals will re-offend.
The Senate leader says otherwise California will never regain control of its prison system if they keep coming back.
"The court will continue to stay in our business in a way that rightfully frustrates the governor and the legislature," said Steinberg.
The rejection of Brown's plan and the approval of another sets up a possible showdown. Brown has already denounced the action as an "inmate release plan by another name" and Steinberg is insisting he's right.
Who will blink first? Proposals must be approved by the legislature by the end of next week. Turns out, it may not matter which proposal lawmakers OK.
A new report by the independent Legislative Analyst Office finds both plans questionable. The governor might have difficulty moving out nearly 10,000 inmates by December and the Senate plan is really a five-year plan, not three. So the courts may decide the only viable option is early releases.