Jerry Brown

By Denny Walsh
Published: Thursday, May. 2, 2013 – 10:53 pm | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, May. 3, 2013 – 7:53 am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Brown administration told a federal court Thursday night that to further reduce inmate prison population the Legislature would have to agree to dramatically restructure the laws governing California’s corrections system.

The 46-page report, filed at the direction of a specially convened three-judge court, warned that continuing to slash the inmate population, even if lawmakers would go along, would put dangerous prisoners on the streets and further burden county jails and other local services already swamped by Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment program.

The court ruled in 2009 that overcrowding is the primary cause of inmate health care so lacking that it violates the Constitution’s bar on cruel and unusual punishment. The three judges ordered the population reduced from 200 percent of the prisons’ design capacity to 137.5 percent. That would shrink the number of inmates from approximately 160,000 to approximately 110,000.

As of April 24, the 33 adult prisons at issue housed 119,506 inmates, which is 149.5 percent of the 79,959 design capacity. Thus, the court is insisting on a cut of another 9,500 inmates by Dec. 31.

Brown and the high command of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation say that sweeping reform undertaken since the court’s reduction order has resulted in prison health care that exceeds the constitutional standard.

The judges don’t agree, and denied a recent motion by the state to vacate or modify the reduction order.

Brown says that, before he implements any further population reductions, he will appeal the court’s April 11 denial of his motion to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2011, the high court upheld the 2009 reduction order.

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