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Thursday, August 8, 2013

California prisons could free 1,000 to ease crowding

LA TimesUnder court orders to ease prison crowding by the end of the year, California officials are scrambling to relocate 9,600 inmates but may be forced to free roughly 1,000 of them before they have completed their sentences.

Officials say most offenders are likely to remain locked up, in privately owned prisons, county jails and other facilities. But some low-level criminals, as well as seriously ill and elderly inmates, could be released, state plans show.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a three-judge ruling that the prisons remain too crowded and inmate numbers must drop. Gov. Jerry Brown has appealed the judges' order, saying the results could harm public safety, but in the meantime his administration must comply.

Putting inmates on the street would present thorny political problems for Brown, who is widely expected to run for reelection next year and insists that California has done enough to relieve overcrowding.

But "the closer we get to the end of the year, the more difficult it becomes" to avoid releases, Brown's corrections secretary, Jeffrey Beard, said in an interview.

The state is working on a deal to move hundreds of prisoners to Alameda County jails in coming weeks, and officials are in talks to rent space at a private prison in Kern County. They are considering reopening two low-security detention centers, also in Kern County. Thousands of other inmates would be in firefighting camps or would be confined in other states. continue reading...

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