California corrections officials prepared to sign the first contract allowing prisoners to be shipped to other states as legislators debated the plan and one expert said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should forget short-term fixes and convene a bipartisan summit on punishment, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although the first round of relocations – starting with 200 inmates next month – will be voluntary, officials said the governor’s emergency order gives them authority to move convicts against their will as needed to free up beds.
Corrections Secretary James Tilton said he hoped to get volunteers to vacate 5,000 beds, noting that more than 19,000 had expressed interest in a recent survey. Barry Krisberg, president of the nonprofit National Council on Crime and Delinquency, said Schwarzenegger had little choice. “The Third World conditions inside the prisons have created such a dangerous situation that, short of putting up tents in the desert, there wasn’t much he could do,” Krisberg said. Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said the new plan ignores fundamental problems with the state’s sentencing laws and penal policies –problems that have helped cause the population crunch.