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Government & Politics

Brown, Legislative Leaders Reach Prisons Deal

Ben Adler
Capital Public Radio

After nearly two weeks of sniping back and forth, California Governor Jerry Brown and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg have reached a deal on their competing prison plans.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on how the state will respond to the federal court order that requires California to reduce overcrowding in its prisons.

The agreement maintains Brown’s original plan to increase capacity by leasing beds at county, private and out-of-state facilities.  But it also lays out an alternative: If the federal court alters its order, the state would put any savings into recidivism programs.

“We’d rather find a combination plan that would achieve, I think, what the courts would like to achieve – but that can’t be done by December 31st.   We do need more time,” says Brown.

In a scene reminiscent of the “Big 5” budget talks of years past, the governor announced the deal outside his office door.  He was flanked by legislative leaders from both parties – including Steinberg, the lone holdout from Brown’s original proposal.

“We all stand foursquare, I believe, behind the alternative.  But we have the insurance that if the court does not modify the order, that we are protected, the public is protected and we go with the original plan,” says Steinberg.

The deal brought a mixed response from the inmates’ attorney, Don Specter.  He says he’d rather the state spend money on recidivism programs than renting prison beds, but the latest plan is far too vague for him to support.

“What we would want is to know how long of an extension they want; how much of the prison population would be reduced during that extension; how would they accomplish it; how could it be measured; and what’s the likelihood it will occur,” says Specter.

Specter says he’ll ask the court to reject the state’s request to extend the deadline.  That would set up at least one more showdown with the three-judge panel that’s come within inches of slapping the governor with contempt-of-court charges.  And while no one would speculate as to how the judges would react to this carrot-and-stick approach, Brown did dangle a little teaser, saying the plan’s been well-considered and well-consulted:

“I think we have a reasonable chance – let’s put it that way,” says Brown.

The legislature could vote on the deal as soon as Wednesday.

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