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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

STATE PRISONS: Senate leaders call for spending to avert releases

Press-EnterpriseThe state Senate’s top Democrat said lawmakers need to be ready to spend potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent the court-ordered release of thousands of prison inmates.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters that a federal three-judge panel put public safety at risk by ordering the state to release more than 9,000 inmates by year’s end to reduce overcrowding. The U.S. Supreme Court last week denied the Brown administration’s motion to stay a lower court ruling and the governor is appealing.

With the state’s legal options dwindling, Steinberg said a top priority for the final weeks of the legislative session is to work with the governor on shifting more prisoners out of state or to county lockups, he said.

Steinberg, though, said he also would insist that the state spend more on mental health and substance abuse treatment to reduce prison recidivism.

“If the governor is forced into a position, and the Legislature is forced into a position, where we’re going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars, to deal with these 9,000-plus inmates, that does not do a single thing to reduce the prison population on a long-term basis,” Steinberg told reporters Wednesday, Aug. 7.

The state already has about 9,000 prisoners in out-of-state facilities. It’s unclear how much bed space is available in county jails, many of which are swollen with inmates diverted from state prison under the 2011 realignment law. continue reading...

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