California is arguing that a new mental health facility for inmates is an example of why the state should be allowed to regain fuller control over its prisons, the nation's largest correctional system. Federal judges issued stinging criticisms of the state, denying its bid for greater authority in two related cases and affirming the continuing need for federal overseers to achieve a level of care required by the United States Constitution, says the New York Times.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been pressing strongly for the end of federal oversight, says the state will appeal the two decisions. The state has until early May to submit a plan to further reduce prison overcrowding or be held in contempt of court. “We've spent an awful lot of money,” said Jeffrey Beard, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Just spending money doesn't do it, but that's been translated into vastly improved care.” Lawyers for inmates said improvements had been made only because of federal oversight. “We know they've needed treatment space for 20 years,” said lawyer Michael Bien. “It's just an example of yes, they did it — great. They did it only under compulsion of the law. It wasn't voluntary.”