A judge has rejected California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s short-term strategy for coping with the prison overcrowding crisis, saying the transfer of inmates to other states was illegal, reports the Los Angeles Times. The ruling by Judge Gail Ohanesian in Sacramento, who acknowledged a climate of “extreme peril” in the prisons, comes as the state is under federal order to ease jampacked conditions by June or face a possible cap on admissions.
Ohanesian said Schwarzenegger improperly declared an emergency in the prisons and that contracts sending convicts to private prisons in Tennessee and Arizona are invalid. Two labor unions that represent correctional officers had sued to block the transfers. The governor called the judge’s ruling “a threat to public safety.” The state has transferred at least 360 inmates, all volunteers, to lockups in Arizona and Tennessee; officials’ goal is to move 5,000. They have expanded the program to include mandatory transfers, because so few inmates were willing to go.