California is in danger of violating the first court-ordered deadline for cutting its prison population unless legislators approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan, said state officials quoted by the Los Angeles Times. Corrections chief Matthew Cate said the state must immediately begin overhauling the prison system to meet a November deadline to lower its head count by more than 10,000 inmates. Without funding from the legislature for Brown’s proposal to shift responsibility for some prisoners to county jurisdictions, the state cannot take action, he said.
If the state finds itself with no money and no viable backup plan, the courts have the authority to order felons released, Cate said. “We are out of time and out of room,” he said. Without the funding, “we’re in trouble.” The November benchmark is the first of four that were set in motion last month when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling requiring the state to shed 33,000 inmates over the next two years because of severe overcrowding. Brown wants the state to pay counties to house low-level offenders in jails rather than state prisons, but his plan depends on the renewal of sales and vehicle tax increases that are set to expire July 1. The governor and lawmakers are still trying to hammer out a deal on the levies. Brown has not sought a delay int he court decision, using the potential threat to public safety to pressure Republican legislators into voting for his proposed tax extensions.