California scrambles after Supreme Court orders the release of thousands of inmates
Republicans were among the first out of the gate with a response to the ruling, warning of dangerous consequences.
"By flooding our neighborhoods with criminals, the court will make one of highest taxed states in the nation among the most dangerous as well," said George Runner, a former GOP state senator who has long fought federal court intervention in California's prisons. "At a time when law-abiding Californians cannot find jobs, it's hard to imagine how convicted felons will do anything other than return to a life of crime."
Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) called the decision "the worst outcome for California," coming as the state is already battling a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.
The ruling, however, could bolster efforts by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats to shift more prisoners into local jails. Supporters of such a "realignment" plan maintain that it would allow the state to reduce its prison population by thousands without releasing the most violent criminals. GOP lawmakers oppose the plan because it could result in the release of some lower-level offenders, such as parole violators.
"Today's decision should end the political debate over realignment of our corrections system,'' Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a statement. "This solution is the only responsible alternative to meeting the legal mandate while providing the best protection possible for Californians. It's time to move forward and implement the governor's plan.''
Paul Macintosh, executive director of California State Assn. of Counties, said he hoped the court's decision will be "a wakeup call to the Legislature to act swiftly .... We think a properly funded realignment is the only logical way to comply with the court's order."
-- Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Inmate beds fill the gymnasium at a state prison in Lancaster. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times