Calif. governor again asks Supreme Court to halt inmate releases

Even if the high court agrees this fall to consider the state's objections, a ruling is unlikely until next year

By Don Thompson
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Against growing odds, Gov. Jerry Brown asked the U.S. Supreme Court late Friday to intervene once again in California's years-long battle with federal judges over control of the state's prison system.

The Democratic governor filed his formal appeal asking the justices to overturn a lower court decision requiring the state to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year to improve conditions.

Brown filed the appeal just a week after the Supreme Court soundly rejected the state's request to postpone the lower court's requirement that California reduce what once was the nation's largest correctional system to hold no more than 110,000 inmates in its major prisons.

Even if the high court agrees this fall to consider the state's objections, a ruling is unlikely until next year. That would be too late to help California avoid complying with the order.

The administration argues in its appeal that the lower court trampled on the state's right to govern its own corrections system when it directed California to transfer or release thousands of inmates.

The Supreme Court backed the lower court's authority in a 5-4 decision in 2011.

But Brown argues that the judges failed to consider that California already has reduced the prison population by more than 46,000 inmates since 2006, primarily through a 2-year-old state law that is sentencing lower-level criminals to county jails instead of state prisons. The administration says most of the low-risk inmates are already gone and that releasing those who remain would endanger the public.

The administration also argues in its 45-page appeal that the judges have not considered evidence showing that prison health care now exceeds constitutional standards after the state invested billions of dollars to improve treatment.

However, a majority of the Supreme Court justices indicated last week that they believe the state is unlikely to succeed in its latest attempt to avoid following the courts' orders. Just three of the nine justices dissented when the court rejected the state's attempt to delay action for months while the high court considers California's appeal.


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