By Sam Stanton, David Siders and Denny Walsh
sstanton@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 – 8:03 am

Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration Tuesday that California has solved its prison overcrowding problem is part of a bold move to wrest control of the nation’s largest corrections system back from the federal courts and their appointed overseers.

But experts say there is a slim chance of that.

“I think the court will respond very negatively,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford Law School professor and former corrections adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I would be very surprised if they moved an inch.”

Nevertheless, the Brown administration filed documents in Sacramento and San Francisco courts late Monday seeking to end federal control of inmate health care in the state’s 33 adult prisons and to lift a mandate that the state reduce its inmate population to about 110,000 prisoners.

Striking a defiant tone at a Capitol news conference Tuesday, Brown insisted that reforms have given California “one of the finest prison systems in the United States” and that “the job is now complete.”

“We can run our own prisons, and by God let those judges give us our prisons back,” he stated. “We’ll run them right.”

The power that federal judges exercise over state prisons is “intrusive,” no longer necessary and “nit-picky,” he said.

California’s prison system, currently housing 133,000 inmates, has been operating under court oversight to one degree or another for more than 25 years, primarily through two long-running class-action lawsuits.

One is filed in Sacramento on behalf of all seriously mentally ill inmates and the other in San Francisco on behalf of physically ill inmates.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton in Sacramento controls the care of mental patients through his appointed special master. U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson of San Francisco controls the care of physically ill inmates through his appointed receiver.

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