In a lengthy and harsh critique, Gov. Jerry Brown has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an emergency stop to an order by federal judges for the release of thousands of prison inmates by the end of December.
"California will suffer irreparable harm without a stay," says the state in a 142-page request filed with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees late requests from the western United States.
The three judge panel ordered the release of prisoners last month, criticizing the state for failing to meet the population benchmarks set by the courts years before.
State officials and attorneys for inmates continue to fight about whether those benchmarks are still needed, and whether medical care behind bars has improved enough to no longer be a violation of the prisoners' constitutional rights.
In the new filing, the Brown administration argues public safety is at risk if the Supreme Court doesn't allow enough time for a full legal appeal to be heard.
"Irreparable harm not only is likely to result from the denial of a stay," writes the state, "it already has occurred and will be compounded as long as the three-judge court's order remains in effect."
Read the emergency filing here.
The nation's highest court rejected California's request in 2011 to intervene in the long running saga over the state prison population and medical care. The question now is whether the conditions behind bars have changed enough -- as state officials insist -- to block further action.