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Analysts: Brown's prison plan doesn't solve long-term problem

September 04, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • Inmates housed in the dormitory at California Institution for Men in Chino show crowded conditions.
Inmates housed in the dormitory at California Institution for Men in Chino… (Image filed in U.S. District…)

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to spend $315 million to lease temporary beds for California's excess state prisoners doesn't solve the state's long-term prison crowding problem, a new legislative report concludes.

The Legislative Analyst's Office determined that California will still need to take action in two years when the governor's temporary leases would expire. At that point, the agency calculates, the state will still have about 8,800 inmates more than court-ordered limits on the prison population. (To view the report, click here.)

The governor's proposal to submit a plan for a long-term fix in January 2015 would leave lawmakers little time to implement any proposals, let alone consider alternatives, the LAO analysis stated. Lawmakers would be in much the same position as they are now, forced to take up emergency legislation with little time to debate other options.

The agency, which advises the Legislature, cautioned that the cost estimates in the governor's plan could be wrong. The LAO report also warned of the risk that California may not be able to lease enough private prison beds to comply with a December deadline to reduce prison overcrowding that was imposed by federal courts, or that federal judges might not accept the governor's proposal.

Legislative analysts also questioned the alternative plan proposed by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), which would reward counties that reduce the number of criminals they send to prison. That option requires a three-year extension on the court's deadline to lower prison crowding.

To meet those population targets, analysts note, Steinberg's plan would have to cut prison admissions by a fifth and could take five years or more to achieve its full effect.

The LAO report concluded that the Legislature should seek long-term solutions toward prison crowding, stating that federal judges are unlikely to end litigation over prison conditions until they are convinced the state can adequately address the problems caused by overcrowding.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday morning to consider the plans proposed by the governor and Steinberg.

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paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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