Update: Calif. prison crowding deadline extended 1 month

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Updated 1:17 p.m.: Federal judges are giving California an additional month to reduce its prison population, as negotiations continue over a longer-term delay.

The judges said in a one-paragraph order Monday that a court-appointed mediator needs more time to seek agreement on how the state should reduce inmate crowding.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers want a three-year delay to give proposed rehabilitation programs time to work. Under a new state law, the alternative is to spend $315 million this fiscal year to house thousands of inmates in private prisons and county jails.

The judges pushed back the deadline until late February for meeting an earlier population-reduction goal.

The court ordered the mediator to provide a mid-November update to say if negotiations are still productive.

— Don Thompson, Associated Press

11:43 a.m.: New chapter begins in California prisons legal saga

Monday marks a new chapter in the legal challenge to California’s prison system.  It’s the deadline for a court-appointed facilitator to report to the three federal judges overseeing the case on how negotiations between the state and inmate attorneys have progressed.
 
The three-judge panel has ordered the two sides to “meet and confer” in hopes of working out a way to reduce California’s prison population without sending inmates out of state.  Plaintiffs have long argued the state could easily meet the court-ordered population cap by releasing low-risk prisoners – and the judges have indicated they agree.  But Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders say that would severely hurt public safety.  They’re hoping the judges will instead give the state more time to implement mental health and rehabilitation programs.

The judges are expected to weigh in soon after hearing the facilitator’s report.  They could give the state more time to implement recidivism programs; they could keep the January deadline and let California send prisoners out of state; or they could keep the January deadline but block out-of-state transfers, essentially forcing the state to release prisoners.

— Ben Adler/Capital Public Radio

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