... and back to California.
The 21 days are up, and today, the CDCR filed its plan for medical and mental health beds, which, it is argued, complies with the Plata/Coleman requirement.
I have not yet seen the full detailed plan, but there is a list of projects whose aggregates will provide a number of beds. Funding for the project comes from AB 900, which enables prison construction and improvement, and facilitates fund transfer for such projects.
This is an interesting CDCR move in the Plata/Coleman chess match. As you may recall, the original Plata/Coleman order was very skeptical of prison construction as a possible solution to overcrowding, but the wording in the order left a narrow opening for such a solution. In fact, it went as far as to say:
Although it might be theoretically possible for California to build its way out of its prison overcrowding problem, it is not practical to anticipate that the state will do so in a timely manner, if ever, given “the time that it takes and . . . the huge costs that it takes to do things like this.” . . . Nonetheless, because our order requires defendants to reduce the prison population to
a specified percentage of the prison system’s design capacity, any additional capacity provided by completed construction could help the state meets its obligations and might allow it to increase the number of prisoners who could constitutionally be housed in the prison system. In such case an adjustment as to the specific terms of the population reduction order, although not to the percentage cap itself, might conceivably be appropriate. We see little prospect for such an occurrence, however, in the reasonably near future, andthus no prospect of remedying the constitutional violations in a timely manner, other than in accordance with the order we issue below.
Now, it seems that CDCR is walking through that narrow opening, and to some extent frustrating the possibly broader agenda of the Plata/Coleman panel, which, as the state argued upon the issuance of the initial order, was to use the medical crisis to make some progress on the broader overcrowding problem. It is a strong, and problematic, statement to make: since you are forcing us to comply with the order, we'll comply with it in the way least convenient to you, the budget, and the prison crisis. Look at what you've made us do.
Stay tuned. There will be more.
**** updated to add: I counted days again. It seems that the 21 days aren't up yet; they end on Nov. 11. The state might still come up with a population reduction plan irrespective of the prison construction plans in this proposal. ****