California governor signs prison housing bill

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official profile] on Thursday signed into law a bill [SB 105, text] that prevents the early release of inmates and allows the state to comply with a federal court order. The order requires the department to achieve a population of 137.5 percent of design capacity no later than December 31, 2013. The bill appropriates $315 million this fiscal year to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [official website] for inmate housing. The bill explicitly states that the department's use of the funds is limited to avoid early release. Senate Bill 105 provides:

This act will also provide time to develop additional thoughtful, balanced, and effective long-term solutions with input from the state's local government and justice partners who are still adjusting to the recent criminal justice reforms of realignment. The long-term changes will build upon the transition of lower level offenders to local jurisdiction, the construction of new prison health care facilities, and improvements to existing health care facilities throughout the prison system.
The law was the result of an agreement between Governor Brown and legislators reached earlier this week.

In August the US Supreme Court [official website] refused to stay an injunction [order, PDF] that would allow for the early release of nearly 10,000 California inmates by the end of the year. The six-justice majority offered no explanation for their ruling. Three justices dissented, calling the injunction a "terrible injunction." State officials, however, have argued that releasing the prisoners poses a risk to public safety. The state plans to appeal the the decision on the merits of the case.The Supreme Court's decision is the end of a legal battle that began when the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] first ruled [opinion, PDF] in 1995 that mental health and medical care for inmates was so bad that the state's prisons violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2006 the state's governor proclaimed a prison overcrowding state of emergency [text]. In May 2011 the Supreme Court upheld [JURIST report] an order to reduce California's prison population in Brown v. Plata [opinion, PDF]. The court concluded that the extreme overcrowding of the California prison system violated the Eighth Amendment [text] because it prevented the system from providing adequate medical and mental health care to inmates.

 

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