Thoughts and News on Criminal Justice and Correctional Policy in California
Sunday, August 19, 2012
State Asks Federal Court to Modify Plata Requirements
In a late filing on Friday, the State of California argued it cannot comply with Plata requirements to reduce the inmate population by 33,000, and should not be made to do so. The Chron reports that CDCR -
. . . said it can provide adequate medical care at higher population levels - about 6,000 higher - than the Supreme Court required in its May 2011 ruling.
Department officials rejected the three-judge court's suggestion that the state could comply with the population standards by releasing some prisoners early without endangering the public. Those possibilities would include granting inmates greater sentence reductions for good behavior and expanding Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment program, which has moved low-level felons from prisons to county jails.
"The Supreme Court did not authorize the early release of prisoners," state lawyers told the court. Continued enforcement of the requirement to reduce the inmate population to 112,000 by next June, they argued, "will come at a significant, and legally unnecessary, cost to the state" and also "interferes with the state's democratic processes."
Instead, state lawyers said, the court should increase the population target to 118,000, a goal the prisons can meet by March 2013. Recent improvements in prison health care - which has been under federal court supervision since 2006 - show that "constitutionally adequate" care can be provided without further reductions, the lawyers said.
Ironically, CDCR now openly argues that the path to "compliance" involves some people-shuffing rather than a real effort to decarcerate: If that target stands, state lawyers said, California's only recourse would be to cancel plans to return about 5,000 inmates from prisons in other states, where they have been temporarily transferred. That would help lower the population to 112,000 by December 2013, they said, at a cost of more than $300 million to the state, while keeping the inmates separated from their families. Readers - do you think, as Don Specter argues in the article, that CDCR never "meant to comply" with the Plata order? Or that there was a bona-fide attempt to do so and, confronted with the realities, they changed their minds?