California legislators adjourned for the year without addressing severe prison overcrowding, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Now, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering unilateral action. He could use emergency power to impose a plan, rejected by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, to transfer 5,000 illegal immigrant inmates to public and private prisons in other states. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez said the legislature had deep differences with the Republican governor on prisons. The speaker said a solution to prison overcrowding should both add bed capacity and include sentencing changes and rehabilitation programs to help released inmates stay out of prison.
Democrats want parole adjustments and other measures to reduce the number of inmates who go back to state prison after their release. About 70 percent return within three years, the nation’s highest recidivism rate. The governor is not looking at ways of reducing sentences for nonviolent prisoners, as some other states have done. Nor is he considering alternatives to imprisoning “technical” parole violators who did not commit new crimes. He has opposed efforts to modify the tough state three-strikes sentencing law. In the 33 California prisons, holding 173,000 inmates, about 16,000 are in temporary beds – sometimes stacked three high in gyms, general purpose rooms and classrooms. The system has room for only about 3,000 more of temporary “bad beds,” which may be filled by June.