California officials are hoping to comply with a Supreme Court ruling on inmate health care without setting any criminals free, the Los Angeles Times reports. Dissenting justices said the lower-court ruling could force the release of more than 40,000 inmates, but the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown expressed confidence that a plan to shift low-level offenders to county jails and other facilities, already approved by lawmakers, would ease the persistent crowding that the high court said had caused “needless suffering and death” and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
The Brown plan “would solve quite a bit” of the overcrowding problem, though not as quickly as the court wants, said Matthew Cate, secretary of California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Our goal is to not release inmates at all.” The governor’s plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid for with tax hikes that could prove politically impossible to implement. The court gave the state two years to shrink the number of prisoners by more than 33,000 and two weeks to submit a schedule for achieving that goal. The state now has 143,335 inmates. Yesterday’s 5-4 ruling, upholding one of the largest such orders in the nation’s history, came with vivid descriptions of indecent care from the majority and outraged warnings of a “grim roster of victims” from some in the minority.