Three liberal federal judges from the Jimmy Carter era are trying to force Gov. Jerry Brown to release nearly 10,000 criminals from state prisons. Politically, it doesn’t get much better for a governor, says Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton. The judges are threatening to hold Brown in contempt if he refuses to free the felons. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that most voters favor the early release of low-level, nonviolent offenders, but they also don’t want to sacrifice public safety by dumping more criminals on the street.
Brown clearly holds a solid hand politically in this escalating confrontation, Skelton says. “This really a huge states’ rights issue,” says corrections chief Jeff Beard. “The state has spent almost $2 billion since 2008 on upgrades. The prison population also has been reduced quite a bit more than the judges seem to recognize.” It’s down by 43,000 inmates under Brown’s controversial “realignment” that places many low-level felons under county control. Skelton believes the judges “should find a way to declare victory and move on [ ] If not, they’ll be tossing Brown a fat pitch down the middle, one he can’t miss.”