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High court rejects California inmate crowding appeal

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to stop the early release of thousands of California prison inmates.
October 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to stop the early release of thousands of California prison inmates. Gov. Jerry Brown argued releasing dangerous criminals could jeopardize public safety.

The Supreme Court decision could force California to release 10,000 prison inmates to reduce overcrowding. The state has fought the order by a lower court for several years.

Judges ruled in 2011 that the state had to improve medical and health treatment and required the state to reduce its prison population. The big question for counties is where will those prisoners go?

"We haven't projected for them. They are not part of our population modeling. So you can't give them to us. We're not ready for this yet," said Jerry Powers with the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors discussed the issue on Tuesday. County probation officials estimate about 3,000 inmates will come to Los Angeles County.

"The state's reclassification of mentally disordered offenders so that they're no longer mentally disordered offenders because of a signature on a piece of paper has resulted in an undue burden to our local county probation officers," said Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

County officials say they're already dealing with AB109 and prison realignment, and if suddenly they get thousands of inmates, it could be overwhelming.

"This is a real concern, not just financial concern, that's almost the least of it, but the public safety concern," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The state is still trying to work out an agreement with the courts to delay the release.

The California Department of Corrections issued a statement Tuesday, which said in part, "We're disappointed the state's case won't be heard ... In the last two years, California has made the most significant reforms to our criminal justice system in decades, reducing the prison population by 25,000 inmates."

If the state and the courts can't work out an agreement, the state would have to reduce its prison population and release inmates by the end of the year.


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