Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 – 7:58 am

Jerry Brown knows firsthand that crime is a political minefield.

During his first governorship three decades ago, with crime rates and public anger on the rise, he signed many lock-’em-up crime bills and launched what later became a massive prison construction program. But he lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1982 due, in part, to his unpopular opposition to capital punishment.

Later, as mayor of crime-stricken Oakland and attorney general, Brown confronted the public’s contradictory and ever-changing, attitudes about crime and punishment.

“Everybody wants to send people to prison, (but) nobody wants to pay for it,” Brown observed – accurately – on Tuesday as he once again picked his way through the minefield.

The occasion was Brown’s declaration that the state, in response to numerous lawsuits and federal court rulings, had gone far enough in reducing overcrowding in the state’s prisons and improving inmate health care and wants “very intrusive” federal supervision to end.

He filed paperwork with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to that effect, even though the state has fallen a bit short of reducing the inmate population to the level spelled out in court orders, warning that further reductions could be achieved only by releasing dangerous inmates from custody.

So far, the state has reduced inmates by diverting newly sentenced, low-level felons from prisons into county jails and local probation through a state-financed program called realignment.

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