Clock ticking on crowded Calif. prisons

SACRAMENTO The clock is ticking as settlement talks over California's overcrowded prison system are down to the last month. Court-appointed referee Elwood Lui released a proposal to trim the state's inmate population by nearly 40,000 over the next four years, ultimately capping the number at 132,500.

"It makes it safer for everyone who's inside the prison system, both the inmates, the staff members -- the correctional custody staff," said Matt Gray from Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety. "Prison simply cannot function in a safe manner right now with all of the overcrowding."

But tough-on-crime Republicans are worried about safety for everyone else outside prison. Lui wants to send the 40,000 lower risk state inmates to county jails, which are already jam-packed, and releasing their inmates early, just as LA County and other locals have done.

Critics say this proposed settlement sets the stage for even more early releases.

"Folks in the neighborhoods are going to know you don't spend time in county jail, and so what that does is it just gives individuals licenses to create crime and havoc in our communities," said state Senator George Runner, R-Lancaster.

With Republicans in no way ready to agree to a prison cap, the lawsuits brought on by inmates over the crowding issue will likely go to trial - at great taxpayer expense - on Nov. 17.

While in Oakland Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California said he'd rather see both sides work it out.

"The federal court is right to complain about that and to go to trial if we don't settle it. So I hope that both of the parties come together and settle it," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.


Click here for more headlines from ABC7 Eyewitness News

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.