Despite proposing deep cuts across state government, Gov. Jerry Brown plans no reduction to the state prison budget, says the Sacramento Bee. Costs for next year will be roughly the same as this year – $9.1 billion. Under the governor’s proposal, the number of inmates, about 160,000, would fall by a mere 650. Over time, Brown wants 38,000 fewer people in prisons, and is proposing to send low-level offenders to county jails.
In an editorial, the newspaper says Brown “needs to get moving” on a plan to alter the state’s sentencing structure and to focus on incapacitated prisoners who cannot care for themselves, and who pose no threat to public safety. The issues of health care, sentencing, and overcrowding can be remedied by the state, or by the federal courts. All are at the core of the federal litigation challenging prison conditions. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide soon whether to consider California’s appeal of the federal order that the state dramatically reduce prison population. Concludes the Bee: “The issues won’t go away. It’s Brown’s choice. He can confront the issue, or federal judges will.”