During a speech in Washington, D.C., Brown called the system a mess, "although far less of a mess than it ever was before" because of changes the state has made to comply with federal court orders enforced most recently by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The justices last week refused to interfere with a previous lower court order requiring California to further reduce the population of the state's prisons to improve conditions as part of a long-running lawsuit over inmate medical care.
Brown said he knows more needs to be done because a federal judicial panel threatened him with contempt if his administration did not meet the court's demand to reduce the prison system by an additional 9,600 inmates.
"The federal courts have a gun at my head, and if we don't, they'll throw me in the can," he said in a speech to the Center for American Progress conference.
The prison population has been reduced by more than 25,000 during the last two years, mostly because of a state law pushed by Brown that is sending felons convicted of lesser crimes to local jails instead of state penitentiaries.
His administration is in negotiations with a court-appointed mediator over a February 2014 deadline to further reduce the prison population. Brown is asking for a three-year extension to allow rehabilitation programs to work, as an alternative to moving thousands of inmates to private prisons in other states. continue reading...