California would seek to reduce inmates’ sentences while increasing its use of private prisons to meet a court-ordered population cap by the end of the year, under Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan, reported by the Associated Press. The proposals include increasing early release credits for inmates and paroling elderly and incapacitated prisoners, while slowing the return of thousands of inmates who are being held in private prisons in other states. The state must shed another 9,300 inmates after judges ruled that greatly reducing the prison population is the most effective way to improve medical and mental health care for inmates.
Options in the state’s plan include granting more early release or “good time” credits to inmates, including second-strike inmates who have serious prior convictions, paroling elderly and medically incapacitated inmates who are deemed unlikely to commit new crimes, expanding the number of inmate firefighters by letting some serious and violent offenders participate, increasing the use of drug treatment centers, paying to house more inmates at county jails with extra space, and possibly at private prisons, slowing the return of the 8,400 inmates who are being housed in private prisons in three other states at an annual cost of about $300 million, adding space for 1,700 sick and mentally ill inmates when a new $840 million treatment facility opens this summer, and freeing 900 inmates because voters in November softened the state’s tough three-strikes sentencing law for career criminals.