The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected California Gov. Jerry Brown’s challenge of an order forcing California to cut its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of January to improve medical and mental health care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The high court’s dismissal leaves intact a three-judge federal panel’s directive to the state to slash its population of 120,000 inmates in 33 prisons. Michael Bien, an attorney for inmates, said the ruling “should send a message to the state at this time to really face up to the reality” of court-ordered reform of the prisons.
Brown has been fighting the prospect of releasing some prisoners early, saying he was worried it could increase crime. Advocates and attorneys for prisoners have pushed for reforms in sentencing that they say would safely shrink the prison system. Brown has asked the three-judge panel for a three-year extension of its deadline for reducing the prison population. If the court refuses, newly signed legislation allows the state to cut the population by transferring prisoners to leased county jail cells and private prisons – most of them outside California – at a first-year cost of $315 million. Corrections Corporation of America said it had signed a contract with the state to house inmates at a 2,304-bed prison in California City (Kern County) at a cost of $28.5 million per year. Last month, the state signed a $30 million contract with Geo Group to house 1,400 inmates at prisons in Kern and San Bernardino counties.