SACRAMENTO, CA - Even after being ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce its prison population, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation admits it probably won't be able to meet the mandate of 137.5 percent of capacity by the June 2013 deadline.
There are roughly 6,000 to 8,000 more inmates in the system that need to be moved. Instead, the agency will ask to raise the cap to 145 percent, defending the move by saying it's not the number that counts.
"We are making great progress towards improving the quality of health care in the prison system and that's really what the federal courts were interested in." CDCR spokesperson Jeffrey Callison said.
California's prison system is famously overcrowded, so much so, inmates die because they couldn't see a doctor. Reducing the prison population was seen as a way to bring healthcare up to Constitutional standards.
The fact that the state can't bring the numbers down angers the attorney representing prisoners.
"Even after they lose, even after the U.S. Supreme Court affirms a ruling saying reduce the population to about 110,000 prisoners, the state still keeps fighting it," Prison Law Office spokesperson Don Specter said.
Gov. Jerry Brown's re-alignment plan began sending low-level criminals to county jail instead of prison last fall isn't relieving overcrowding enough. Specter said one answer stands out, give out more good time credit, which critics call "early release."
"Scientific materials show that cutting a few months off a prisoners' sentence doesn't affect public safety one bit," Specter said.
Crime Victims Action Alliance thinks the federal government will order early release. The group points out residents are already paying the price of sending low level criminals to the county. It will only get worse under an early release order.
"Crime is on the rise, violent crime and property crime," Crime Victims Action Alliance spokesperson Christine Ward said. "Now we're going to have more people coming out into our communities that really shouldn't be here. Early release ... it's going to be huge!"
By Nannette Miranda