This is not a drill. That's the message a high-ranking corrections official delivered to state lawmakers ahead of this Thursday's deadline to comply with a court order to shed 9,000 inmates from California prisons.
Martin Hoshino, the Acting Undersecretary of Corrections, said the Brown Administration must make the cuts by the end of the year. And, he said, “The state is to begin implementing the plan as soon as it is submitted.”
The state might shorten sentences by increasing good time credits for inmates. Or put prisoners with less than two years left to serve under house arrest, with GPS monitoring devices. Other options include sending prisoners out of state, or releasing inmates early.
Hoshino told members of the Senate Public Safety Committee that the court order also requires state officials to report their progress every month — and report anyone who slows it down.
“In many places in the order, it also references that those who fail to act to comply will essentially be held in contempt,” said Hoshinio, adding, “And it's written in there more times than I care to read.”
In January, California officials asked the panel of federal judges to vacate or modify a prisoner reduction order the court issued in 2006.
At the time, prisons were packed with nearly double the number of inmates they were designed to hold. Judges found that overcrowding thwarted efforts to improve prison healthcare deemed so poor that one inmate a week was dying from neglect. The judges ordered the state to fix the problem.
California's prisons hold 30,000 fewer inmates today, and officials insist prisoners now get the treatment they need.
Governor Brown vowed to appeal the court order to the U.S. Supreme Court. But unless the nation's highest court grants an emergency stay, California must comply with the order.