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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

California prisons should be removed from court orders to shed inmates, state officials argue

Calling California's prison overcrowding problems a distant memory, state officials have asked a special federal court panel to release the nation's largest system from orders forcing them to continue reducing a once overwhelming population of inmates.

In court papers filed Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration asked the three-judge panel to set aside its August 2009 order, saying "continued enforcement of the order is unfair, unnecessary and illegal."

"In the years since the court issued the current population cap order, the state has dramatically reduced the prison population, significantly increased capacity through construction and implemented myriad improvements that transformed the medical and mental health care systems," state officials wrote.

Reviving a legal showdown that already has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown said he has launched the legal maneuver because the state's prison system should no longer be under court control. He warned that remaining under the court orders could threaten public safety, cost the cash-strapped state billions of dollars more and "interfere with California's independent right to determine its own criminal justice laws."

The governor also vowed to press to the Supreme Court the state's argument that it has done enough to reform its prisons.

"I'm trying to find a balance point, a middle path that spends the right amount of money to achieve a decent amount of public safety," the governor said.

"We can't pour more and more money down the rat hole of incarceration. We have to spend as much as we need but no more and I think we've hit that point."

Prisoner rights lawyers immediately called the maneuver "frivolous" and the "latest in a long line of efforts" to avoid a court order that has been "upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court." ….California prisons should be removed from court orders to shed inmates, state officials argue - ContraCostaTimes.com

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