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Brown Declares Calif. Prison Overcrowding Emergency Over

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday declared an end to the state’s long-running prison crisis and announced a legal challenge to a federal court order for additional reductions at state prisons.

The declaration will allow the state to phase out the use of approximately 8,900 private out-of-state prison beds for California inmates starting in July of 2013.

The governor also announced legal action taken to end another court order that requires what he described as “intrusive supervision” of prison mental health care.

Brown told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the state has done all it can to safely relieve overcrowding and improve medical and mental health care for prisoners.

“The mental health care in prisons is better than most of those prisoners will ever see in their lives,” the governor said.

Brown said the state also complied with the court’s order to identify options to achieve additional reductions in the number of inmates held in state prison.

He cautioned, however, that further reductions “threaten public safety and interfere with California’s independent right to determine its own criminal justice laws.”

“The very worst thing we could do would be to compound the problems in Los Angeles and Southern California by adding another 10,000 felons coming out of state prisons,” Brown said.

Since 2006, the inmate population in the state’s 33 prisons has been reduced by over 43,000 and crowding is down from more than 200 percent to just below 150 percent – over half of that number occurring since October 1, 2011, in the wake of the governor’s realignment program, according to Brown.

Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Law School Criminal Justice Center, agreed with Brown’s assessment that an inmate cap ordered by the federal courts is no longer necessary.

“There’s no question that the health care issue, which was the dominant one in leading to the federal court takeover, has been significantly solved,” Weisberg said.

Brown’s declaration comes days before his office is expected to unveil state spending projections for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year beginning on July 1.

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