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Rights groups urge Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to comply with prison reduction order

August 27, 2009 |  2:03 pm

Jerrybrown A statewide coalition of human rights groups today urged Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to devise a plan to comply with a federal court order to reduce the California prison population by 44,000 rather than delay the inevitable by appealing it.

Activists who support sentencing reform and broader rehabilitative efforts delivered letters to Brown's offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland saying that the California Assembly has shown itself unable "to put reason over politics" to craft a plan to ease overcrowding so severe that the courts have said it violates inmates' constitutional rights.

"California's correctional system is in a tailspin that threatens public safety and raises the risk of fiscal disaster," the activists warned, noting corrections costs have increased fivefold in 15 years.

The Aug. 4 order by a three-judge federal court "is supported by extensive expert testimony" and appealing it will delay the adoption of more effective and less expensive ways to improve public safety, said Carol Strickman, staff attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Californians United for a Responsible Budget pointed to a National Council on Crime and Delinquency study that found early release programs such as the ones proposed in the Assembly but mired in political wrangling  don't jeopardize public safety.

State lawmakers are due to vote next week on a prison population reduction plan but minus sentencing reform measures that analysts say are essential to cost-cutting and sustainable reduction of the 170,000-plus inmates in state custody.

Brown said after the court order was issued that he would appeal it. He has until Sept. 3 to file notice that he will do so.

-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown in March. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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