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Steinberg says Brown's prison plan 'won't pass'

June 20, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • Inmates double-bunked in a dorm at the California Institute for Men near Chino.
Inmates double-bunked in a dorm at the California Institute for Men near… (Image filed in U.S. District…)

Senate leaders are so sure they will kill Gov. Jerry Brown's court-ordered prison reduction plans that the subject matter was treated as a joke Wednesday.

For an hour, senators raised serious problems at the confirmation hearing of Brown's appointed prisons chief, Jeffrey Beard, grilling him on how he was addressing valley fever deaths, inmate suicides, contraband, healthcare and a slow start to expanding prison rehabilitation programs.

But then Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) broached the subject of federal court orders to further reduce crowding in the troubled prison system.

"The next question, were I to ask it, was, 'Do you have a plan to try to relieve us of the court order to continue releasing prisoners?' But I won't ask that question," Jackson said.

"The answer is, we have a plan," Beard said, smiling.

Senate President Darrell Steinberg stepped in. "They have a plan they are presenting to the Legislature that they are, let's just say, ambivalent or neutral on whether we pass it or not," he said.

Brown is in the midst of appealing court-ordered population caps for a second time to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, under threat of being held in contempt, the governor has told federal judges keeping watch over the state's prison system that he will produce legislation to further reduce crowding, Steinberg said, "by suggesting a series of statutes to us that we're not going to pass."

The Senate leader shrugged his shoulders, laughed, and said to the crowded hearing room, "just between all of us. That's the answer to the question."

Beard's appointment was confirmed.

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paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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