Friday, May 3, 2013

Gov. Brown Reveals Plan to Comply with Plata Mandate

A gym at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy
emptied of triple bunks. Photo credit AP.
Yesterday, Gov. Brown revealed the State's plan to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate in Plata. The Greenwich Time reports:

Options in the state's plan include:

— Granting more early release or "good time" credits to inmates, including second-strike inmates who have serious prior convictions.
— Paroling elderly and medically incapacitated inmates who are deemed unlikely to commit new crimes.
— Expanding the number of inmate firefighters by letting some serious and violent offenders participate.
— Increasing the use of drug treatment centers.
— Paying to house more inmates at county jails with extra space, and possibly at private prisons within California.
— Slowing the return of the 8,400 inmates who are being housed in private prisons in three other states at an annual cost of about $300 million.
— Adding space for 1,700 sick and mentally ill inmates when a new $840 million treatment facility opens in Stockton this summer.
— Freeing a projected 900 inmates because voters in November softened the state's tough three-strikes lifetime sentencing law for career criminals. Proposition 36 changed the law to require that the third strike be a violent or serious felony and lets third-strikers with lesser offenses apply for shorter sentences. The administration rejected a proposal to release about 2,800 eligible inmates without court hearings.

The administration argued against many of the proposals even as it presented the options to the court in a series of legal filings.

There don't seem to be many surprises here; in essence, the plan follows standard paths to decarceration. But it is also important to note that CA intends to slow down the rate at which it will bring back inmates held out of state in private institutions.

The other thing that is not surprising is the state's tendency to speak in two voices at once every time these plans are discussed. The message is: We'll comply, so as not to be held in contempt, but we don't like this one bit, and are concerned about the implications for public safety. By now, Gov. Brown's grumpy rhetoric - there's no crisis, gyms are empty, everything's fine, inmate's lawyers and court-appointed masters are getting rich on taxpayer dollars, etc etc - should be familiar to regular readers. But the contempt threat, rarely made in the context of federal litigation, seems to have upped the ante.

It's also notable that CA intends to expand its fire camp program as a plan for decarceration. Any readers interested in learning more about fire camps, and about the difference in conditions, demeanor, and interpersonal relationships between prisons and fire camps, I highly recommend Philip Goodman's work, such as this terrific article.

Props to Caitlin Henry for the Greenwich link; I am surprised not to see this covered in CA periodicals.


Josh said...

The whole idea of private prisons is very scary to me. I'm happy to read they will let more inmates become firefighters and increase drug treatment centers though.

Anonymous said...

I do hope second strikers end up gaining more good time credits. Currently it can be difficult for second strikers to receive access to rehabilitation because access is granted to those who are allowed to earn credits first leaving no room for second strikers serving 85% of double sentences and in great need of rehabilitaion to avoid reoffending.