Federal judges deny Governor Jerry Brown's bid to end prison population cap http://www.thereporter.com/ci_23010371/federa...
A federal judicial panel on Thursday denied Gov. Jerry Brown's request to lift a court-ordered prison population cap and threatened him and other state officials with contempt of court if they fail to comply.
The ruling by the three-judge panel singled out the Democratic governor for ignoring its earlier orders to reduce the state's inmate population to the level ordered by the federal courts. Judges have said that capping the population is the most important step the state can take to improve inmate medical and mental health care.
In January, Brown sought to end the long-running court oversight of California's prison system and promised to take his fight again to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. At the time, he decried the billions of dollars California is spending to improve inmate medical and mental health care, saying the court had ordered the state to create "gold plate" prisons that were siphoning money from public schools, colleges, social services and other programs.
The judicial panel was unmoved.
Naming Brown, it said state officials must take whatever steps are necessary to comply with the court's inmate-reduction order by the end of this year or face the consequences.
Otherwise, "They will without further delay be subject to findings of contempt, individually and collectively. We make this observation reluctantly, but with determination that defendants will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States."
Brown's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but corrections department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said the administration will appeal.
In an emailed statement, Hoffman said the quality of medical care delivered to California's prison inmates "far exceeds" the requirements of the Constitution. Any further steps to reduce the inmate population would jeopardize public safety, she said.
Thursday's ruling in favor of the inmates' attorneys was expected and is the latest development in two partially consolidated legal cases that date back several years.
One case, filed in 1990, concerns the treatment of mentally inmates. The other, filed in 2001, concerns substandard medical care. In both cases, the federal courts have ruled that the care provided by California's prison system was so poor it violated inmates' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.