California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said the legislature would pay to house inmates out-of-state to comply with a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding only if more money was set aside for inmate mental health and substance abuse treatment, the Los Angeles Times reports. Steinberg expressed frustration with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals end-of-the-year deadline to remove 9,600 inmates from state lockups. Officials are scrambling to relocate the inmates but may be forced to free roughly 1,000 of them before they have completed their sentences.
Steinberg said treating inmates for drug addiction and mental health problems has proved to reduce their odds of returning to prison, which is part of the long-term solution to reducing overcrowding in prisons. The federal court order to empty prison cells is a short-term fix, he said. The Senate reconvenes next week after its summer recess, and prison overcrowding is expected to be just one of many contentious issues that state lawmakers will be forced to wrestle with before they break for the year on Sept. 13.