Progress has stalled in the efforts to fashion a fix for California’s overcrowded prisons, the Sacramento Bee reports. In last week’s budget negotiations, lawmakers failed to free up money set aside last year for prisons. They also did not act to approve $8 billion in other bonds for 10,000 long-term health care beds for old, infirm, and mentally ill inmates. State Attorney General Jerry Brown has challenged medical receiver Clark Kelso’s authority to tap the state for the 10,000 beds through the federal courts – creating an unlikely alliance with legislative Republicans.
The result is that 16 months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators collaborated on a $7.4 billion bond offering, no new beds have been added to a system that confines 171,000 inmates to prison space built for half that many. “They just seem to be paralyzed,” said Donald Spector of the Prison Law Office, who wants a federal three-judge panel to set a state prison population cap. Spector says prison overcrowding exacerbates the state’s inability to provide constitutional levels of medical and mental health care to its inmates. The issue lies at the core of his motion that the three-judge court will settle in a trial beginning Nov. 17.