California Leaders Strike a Deal on Overcrowding Solutions, Bill for Youths with Adult Sentences Moves Forward, and the LA Times on Pre-trial ReleaseSeptember 10th, 2013 by Taylor Walker
GOV. BROWN, SENATE, AND ASSEMBLY MAKE AGREEMENT ON PRISON POP. STRATEGIES
Governor Jerry Brown and California legislative leaders agreed to a compromise Monday regarding their competing prison overcrowding plans: First they will present to the panel of three federal judges Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg’s request for a deadline extension to implement a series of rehabilitative strategies. If the judges don’t agree, Jerry’s $315M for-profit prison proposal will be the fallback position. (For WLA’s previous post on the issue, go here.)
The Associated Press has the story. Here’s a clip:
The deal relies on the state persuading three federal judges to give California time to let rehabilitation programs work rather than spend $315 million to lease cells in private prisons and county jails.
The leaders agreed that if the judges don’t extend the deadline, the state will fall back on Brown’s plan to lease the cells.
“There’s insurance here against early release” of prisoners, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said at a news conference outside the governor’s office, where he was joined by the governor and Democratic and Republican leaders of each chamber.
The agreement reached Monday resolves the impasse as lawmakers race toward the end of the legislative session this week.
However, there is no guarantee the judges will go along.
While California lawmakers are asking for more time to reduce the prison population, Chris Megerian of the LA Times presents a timeline of California’s overcrowding problems spanning almost two decades.
KQED’s Mina Kim talks to the station’s Sacramento Bureau Chief Scott Detrow about the agreement between Brown and the Steinberg coalition. Here’s a clip from the discussion (scroll down for the sound clip):
MK: Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg put forward the alternate plan, but his plan relies on federal judges granting a three year extension. The special panel has already rejected requests for more time. The US Supreme Court rejected a request last month. What makes the governor and lawmakers think that the federal judges will change their minds now?
SD: That’s the big question, and that’s the big hole in this compromise that the governor is pushing today. …He has spent all of 2013 fighting this court order, and time after time the federal courts have come back and said, “No, we’re sticking to our deadline.” Brown says this is different because California is putting legislation in place that would in theory reach these hard goals that the courts have set for the state…
Option A does exactly what the courts want. Option B will reach that goal, but over a longer period of time and in a way, at least according to the authors of this proposal, will have more of a long-term effect than simply expanding the prison system. He’s banking on the fact that the court, when given these two options, will say, “Okay, we’ll ease our deadline because this is a better plan for the long term.”
Even if it seems slightly off point, this article from Bloomberg about the effect of California’s incarceration decisions on two the big private prison corporations makes for interesting reading. It makes one wonder how these profitability issues might influence California politics. Here’s a clip:
Corrections Corp. of America, the largest U.S. prison company, and Geo Group Inc. (GEO) stand to gain in California Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to rent thousands of their cells as part of a $1 billion effort to meet a federal court deadline to reduce prison overcrowding.
Brown seeks to spend $315 million in the year that ends June 30 and an estimated $415 million annually for two more years to remove 12,500 inmates from state penitentiaries. The plan calls for leasing a Corrections Corp. (CXW) prison in the Mojave Desert, shipping more inmates to private lockups out of state, and renting beds at public and private jails in California.
The proposal is an about-face by Brown, who sent Corrections Corp. shares tumbling 8.9 percent in one day in April 2012 when he said he planned to reclaim almost 10,000 inmates held by the company in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. California is Corrections Corp.’s biggest state customer and accounted for 12 percent of revenue, or $214.8 million, in 2012, according to corporate filings.
CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY APPROVES BILL TO PROVIDE YOUTHS WITH LONG ADULT SENTENCES A CHANCE AT PAROLE
The California Assembly approved a bill Friday, SB 260, that would provide a possibility of parole to many inmates who were sentenced to adult prison as teenagers. (For backstory on the bill go here, and here.) The bill, authored by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), now has to make it through the Senate before it lands on Gov. Brown’s desk.
The Eurasia Review has the story on SB 260. Here’s a clip:
Senate Bill 260 (Hancock) passed in the Assembly with bipartisan support by a vote of 51 to 21. Next week it will return to the Senate, where an earlier version passed with a two-thirds majority, for a concurrence vote.
The bill would create a parole process that would account for the age of the youth offender at the time of the crime and would focus on subsequent rehabilitation as a key factor in determining suitability for parole.
“California law does not recognize what every parent and teacher knows: children are different from adults,” said Elizabeth Calvin, senior children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “If passed into law, this bill will help put many young offenders on a path to being productive members of society.”
California sentences many youth to adult prison terms, even when the person was under 18 at the time of the crime. More than 6,500 youth offenders are in California state prisons. Some were as young as 14 when the crime was committed and over half are serving life sentences.
The bill would provide review for young offenders who were convicted as adults and who have served at least 15 years. Many, however, would have to serve 20 or 25 years before going before the parole board.
A QUICK SOLUTION TO EASE LA JAIL OVERCROWDING LIES IN THE HANDS OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
While we were (partially) off the grid last week, the LA Times published a noteworthy editorial on the merits of pre-trial release for a portion of the 10,000 inmates awaiting trial as a means of reducing overcrowding in LA County jails. Here are some clips:
With some county jail inmates serving only a fraction of their sentences due to overcrowding, as The Times reported Sunday, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has called on Sheriff Lee Baca to provide ideas on how to increase the portion of their terms that inmates actually spend behind bars. The supervisor asked specifically about contracting for more lockups throughout the state — while failing to mention an option that could immediately free up space to house the most serious offenders.
Thousands of beds are currently occupied by people awaiting their trials in jail instead of at home simply because they can’t afford to post bail. Money, not public safety, is often what determines whether someone charged with a crime walks free and helps his lawyer prepare a defense or stays locked up.
AB 109, the same legislation that gave counties new responsibilities and new funding for dealing with some felons previously handled by the state, also authorized sheriffs to release pretrial detainees, on electronic monitoring when appropriate, even if they can’t pay their bail. The catch is that the sheriffs must first be given the go-ahead by their county boards of supervisors — and Los Angeles County’s supervisors haven’t budged.