SACRAMENTO (AP) — The Legislature approved a compromise plan Wednesday to deal with California’s prison crowding crisis by passing a bill asking federal judges to extend a deadline for releasing thousands of inmates.
The legislation includes Gov. Jerry Brown’s original plan to lease cells in private prisons and county jails if the court sticks to its year-end deadline for reducing the prison population by about 9,600 inmates.
If the judges grant the extension, part of the $315 million that would be spent to rent cells in private prisons and county jails will go instead to pay for rehabilitation programs.
However, attorneys for inmates who sued over the crowding issue said the proposal is too vague and includes no guarantees of success.
The Senate approved SB105 on a 35-2 vote, hours after the Assembly passed the bill, 75-0. The bill now heads to Brown for his signature.
It passed the Assembly and Senate a day before the end of the legislative session.
Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg previously said they had been seeing “smoke-signals” that judges were willing to consider the state’s proposal.
But Steinberg used his floor speech Wednesday to continue criticizing the governor’s plan to lease cells as too expensive and temporary. Brown’s plan might still be adopted if the courts refuse the state’s request for a delay in the deadline, but Steinberg said that “would be a very unfortunate occurrence” because leasing beds “would do nothing to end overcrowding for all time.”
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, wanted to ask the judges to delay the inmate-release deadline and spend $200 million on drug, mental health and other rehabilitation programs. He said such programs would reduce the number of parolees who re-offend and end up back in state prison.
The state will pursue a variation on Steinberg’s plan if the judges postpone the deadline.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, predicted the judges would revise their order if they are honest in their assessment of improvements the state has already made to the prison system, including reducing the prison population by more than 40,000 inmates.
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