California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will file a court-mandated plan today to ease prison overcrowding that appears to defy demands by a panel of three federal judges, says the Sacramento Bee, calling the move the latest salvo in a long-running feud between state and federal officials over California’s corrections system.The federal judges last month ordered the state to reduce prison population 40,000 over the next two years in response to lawsuits alleging that overcrowding has led to unconstitutional and inadequate levels of medical and mental health care.
The plan will incorporate a legislative package approved last week to cut the population by 16,000 inmates, as well as proposals to send 2,500 inmates out of state and 1,000 inmates to private prisons. It also will propose constructing new buildings on existing prison sites to house an additional 7,600 inmates. California houses 150,655 inmates in 33 adult prisons. Republicans saw the governor’s approach to stop short of the three-judge panel’s demands as a potential legal strategy to challenge the federal judges, forcing the Supreme Court to settle whether the federal government can mandate a release of prisoners. The judges could respond by rejecting Schwarzenegger’s plan and asking him to resubmit it. They could put the plan under a review process that ultimately results in a final order demanding greater inmate reductions. Or they could hold Schwarzenegger and Corrrections Secretary Matthew Cate in contempt.