Legal War Expected Over CA’s Bid To End Federal Court Prison Oversight


Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration that California has solved its prison overcrowding problem is part of a bold move to wrest control of the nation’s largest corrections system back from the federal courts and their appointed overseers, says the Sacramento Bee. Experts say there is a slim chance of that. “I think the court will respond very negatively,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford Law School professor and former corrections adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I would be very surprised if they moved an inch.”

Striking a defiant tone at a news conference yesterday, Brown insisted that reforms have given California “one of the finest prison systems in the United States” and that “the job is now complete.” The power that federal judges exercise over state prisons is “intrusive,” no longer necessary and “nit-picky,” he said. California’s prison system, housing 133,000 inmates, has been operating under court oversight to one degree or another for more than 25 years, primarily through two long-running class-action lawsuits. The inmates’ lead attorney said the state’s claims are false. “There’s no factual basis for saying everything has been fixed,” attorney Michael Bien said. “I’m frankly disappointed because we’ve been spending decades working with the state to try and fix these problems and they’re not fixed. We’re about to enter into a war.”

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