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Prisoner reduction expected slightly behind court schedule

CDRCMule Creek State Prison

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a court filing last week that it has the funding to reduce its prison population in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling [PDF], but it anticipates it will meet the court’s first prisoner reduction benchmark a month behind schedule.

Under AB 109 [PDF], the state law to reduce overcrowding, the corrections department will be able to reduce its prisoner population by:

  • Sentencing some felons to county jails instead of prison
  • Transferring to counties the responsibility for monitoring certain types of offenders after their release from prison
  • Requiring prisoners serving time for parole violations to serve that time, which cannot exceed more than 180 days, in county jail instead of prison

Funding for the law is provided by AB 118, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June. AB 118 devotes 1 percentage point of the state’s sales tax rate, an estimated $5 billion next fiscal year, to the Local Revenue Fund to provide grants to counties taking over responsibility for the inmates.

At the time of the Supreme Court ruling, California’s prisons were at 200 percent of their intended capacity, contributing to medical and mental health care so poor it was declared unconstitutional.

The court’s first benchmark orders the corrections department to lower it prisoner population to 167 percent of capacity by Dec. 27. The department says it expects to reach that benchmark by Jan. 27, 2012.

Corrections department spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said the delay is necessary to allow the department to get a better estimate of the state's prisoner population.  

In a declaration in support of Wednesday's filing, Jay Atkinson, the department's acting deputy director of the Office of Research, said:

CDCR forecasts population levels by using a simulation model, which employs data trends and projected new admissions, to determine how long the new admissions will stay, the number of offenders who will be returned to prison, and how long they and the current inmates will stay. …This simulation is repeated for each individual inmate until the total population is projected. After the Fall 2011 projection is completed, staff in the Office of Research will project the impact on CDCR’s population that Assembly Bill 109, the realignment legislation, will have.

The prison overcrowding law goes into effect Oct. 1, giving the corrections department time to finish its fall population projection, which will include projections related to the number of inmates the law will take out of the state's prisons.

In addition to moving inmates to county jails, the department plans to add about 10,000 beds [PDF] and plans to move inmates to prisons in other states.

Ultimately, it must reduce its prisoner population to 137.5 percent of capacity by October 2013, a reduction of 33,000 inmates.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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