California officials, behind schedule in cutting prison overcrowding, have asked a federal court for a six-month extension of a June 2013 deadline to lower the state inmate population by 34,000 over two years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The prison population, which had dropped by 24,000 in the first 11 months of Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment program, has leveled off in the past two months.
The state is unlikely to meet a court-approved target of 117,000 inmates, about 3,000 below the current level, by Dec. 27. The department asked the court to push that date back by six months and to delay for an additional six months the court’s June deadline for lowering the inmate count to 110,000. The state is sending low-level felons to county jail instead of prison. A lawyer for inmates said realignment isn’t enough to comply with court orders and that the state is refusing to take additional steps to reduce prison crowding without endangering the public. “Every step of the way they’ve dragged their heels,” said Rebekeh Evenson of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, which sued the state over inmate health care in 2001. “As far as I know, there is no good reason to fail to comply.”