California Prison Plan Would Take Five Years


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has given federal judges a road map to reducing state prison overcrowding. The Los Angeles Times says the proposal would take more than twice as long as the judges ordered to make the improvements they demanded and would fall short if state lawmakers did not approve certain provisions. The plan appears to set up a confrontation between the governor and the judges, who made their impatience clear in ordering the state to come up with a plan to cut the number of inmates by 40,000 within two years. Schwarzenegger’s plan would take five years — if lawmakers sign off on it.

Under a second scenario, if lawmakers balk at more prison changes than they reluctantly approved last week, the state would retain nearly 23,000 more inmates after two years than the judges have said is reasonable. There was no indication Friday that legislators were more inclined to approve the proposals the governor included than they were when they dismissed some of the same ideas in recent weeks under pressure from law enforcement groups. The governor’s proposal avoids anything that could be portrayed as a mass release of criminals. The proposal combines prison construction and a variety of generally modest steps to reduce inmate numbers.

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