State Gets 30 Days in Prison Overcrowding Dispute

California prison officials wanted three more years to meet the goals for reducing prison overcrowding but the three-judge federal panel gave them 30 days extra and ordered immediate negotiation to meet the goal.

Gov. Jerry Brown has repeatedly asked the judges to push back the Dec. 31, 2013 deadline to hit the target population of 137.5 percent of capacity.  And he has been repeatedly rebuffed.

In an order Tuesday, the judges overseeing the prison conditions cases ordered both sides to explore how to comply with the order by examining inmates held as three strikers, juveniles, elderly and medically infirm, immigration prisoners and implementation of a low-risk list.

The court specifically said it did not want the state to enter into contracts to ship prisoners out of California to be housed in other state prisons.

They appointed judge Peter Siggins to oversee meet-and-confer sessions.  He is to report back to the panel immediately if there is no possibility of agreement.

California has been under orders to lower inmate populations by nearly 40,000 statewide.  It has not yet met that goal and must get the population down by  10,000 more inmates to meet the target.

Brown has said it cannot be done by Dec. 31, 2013.  The court gave him until Jan. 27, 2014.

The orders stem from two long-running lawsuits over prison health care and mental health care.  Both were found to be so poor they amounted to unconstitutional cruel punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

Overcrowded conditions were found to be the root cause of the poor medical and mental health care.  The prisons were ordered to reduce populations to comply with a goal of 137.5 percent of capacity.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals signed the order, along with Judges Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento.

Case:  Plata v. Brown, No. C01-1351TEH

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