John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
"A federal court judge has decided that videos showing California prison guards dousing mentally ill prisoners with pepper spray can be shown in open court, an attorney representing inmates said Wednesday." CBS Los Angeles, 9/25/13
Facing a federal court order to cut its inmate population by about 8,500 inmates by the end of the year, California officials asked a federal court panel late Monday to grant a three-year extension to ensure that mass inmate releases do not occur.
A panel of three federal judges had ordered the state to submit detailed plans by Monday on how it would cut the population in its 34 adult prisons to 137.5 percent of capacity by the end of the year.
But Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration instead asked for the postponement, noting that legislation he signed last week, Senate Bill 105, is designed to ease California’s overcrowding crisis without the need to release inmates early.
California would get three more years to reduce its prison population to court-mandated levels while counties would get $200 million a year to expand drug treatment and mental health care for criminal offenders under a proposal Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg unveiled today that calls for settling a long-standing lawsuit against the state over its crowded prisons.
Steinberg presented the plan a day after Gov. Jerry Brown introduced legislation that calls for spending $315 million on additional prison beds to meet a federal court order to reduce crowding in the state's prisons by the end of this year. Brown's plan has the support of Republican leaders in the Legislature, Sen. Bob Huff and Assemblywoman Connie Conway, as well as Democratic Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.
But Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, is advancing a counter proposal that seeks to address the problem of crowded prisons without paying for more prison space or the early release of inmates. More than a dozen Democratic state senators stood behind Steinberg as he presented his plan to the media this morning, including a spectrum of liberal and moderate Democrats.
Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers pledged Tuesday to ease prison crowding without releasing inmates early, laying out a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for alternate housing.
The proposal, which has divided Democratic leaders, would pay for enough beds in privately owned prisons and other facilities to shed more than 9,600 inmates from state lockups by the end of the year, as federal judges have ordered.
"This is the sensible, prudent way to proceed," Brown said at a Capitol news conference. "The plan is to find as many cells as needed."
Paying for the extra housing would drain $315 million from the state's $1.1-billion reserve over the next year. The price tag is expected to increase to $415 million for each of the following two years.
The proposal would avoid inmate releases while Brown continues fighting the order to reduce the population in state prisons, which the judges say are unconstitutionally crowded.
The Supreme Court, over three Justices’ dissents, on Friday afternoon refused to delay a lower court order requiring California state prisons to release nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of this year, to relieve overcrowding. In an order containing no explanation, the Court majority denied state officials’ plea to keep the release order on hold until it could be challenged on appeal. The Supreme Court’s ruling did not even mention state officials’ plea to grant full-scale review of the order.
Justice Antonin Scalia, in a bitterly worded dissent joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, called the three-judge District Court’s release mandate a “terrible injunction” that will have the grave consequence of releasing many dangerous prisoners. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., noted simply that he would grant a postponement.
Sunday's New York Times has a piece entitled "California Is Facing More Woes In Prisons," containing this excerpt:
In a ruling on Thursday calling for an investigation of prison-based mental health facilities, a federal judge cited the “denial of basic necessities, including clean underwear,” along with doctor shortages and treatment delays. And in a footnote, the judge, Lawrence K. Karlton, chided the state for arguing for an end to federal oversight.
“Given the gravity of the evidence in this hearing,” Judge Karlton wrote in the footnote, a motion to terminate the case “takes on the character of a condition in which the defendants have simply divorced themselves from reality.”
"Gov. Jerry Brown has asked a federal judicial panel to ice its order to release some 9,600 inmates from California's crowded prisons, asking it be put on hold until a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could take another year." LA Times, 6/28/13
That's the headline from today's Sacramento Bee piece on the 3-judge panel's latest order in the California prison overcrowding case. With budget cuts and a U.S. "Incarceration Epidemic," Atlantic Blog, 6/20/13, it's only a matter of time before we see these types of headlines regarding federal prisons. You can't put people in prison if you don't want to pay the high cost of incarceration. See "As Prisons Squeeze Budgets, GOP Rethinks Crime Budgets," Sent Law & Policy Blog.
Here's the first few paragraphs of the Bee's article:
For decades, California's political leaders have tried every imaginable approach to dealing with its overcrowded prisons - sending inmates out of state, fighting the federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, promising more prison beds and insisting that it has done plenty to cut inmate populations and improve health care.
On Thursday, a panel of three federal judges said they have had enough.
In a sharp rebuke of Gov. Jerry Brown, the judges said the state must take immediate steps to release inmates toward compliance with the panel's 2009 order that the prison population be reduced to 137.5 percent of capacity, an order the U.S. Supreme Court later adopted.
"The history of this litigation is of defendants' repeated failure to take the necessary steps to remedy the constitutional violations in its prison system," the panel wrote in a scathing 51-page order and opinion that demands the state immediately slash inmate levels or face a contempt citation.
"We are compelled to enforce the Federal Constitution and to enforce the constitutional rights of all persons, including prisoners," the panel wrote in an order that left no doubt the judges believe the state has intentionally defied its previous orders.
The latest one essentially requires the state to cut its inmate population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year, and to take steps to ensure that the count will not jump back above the 137.5 percent level.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/20/5512376/judges-order-california-to-immediately.html#storylink=cpy
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday followed through with his vow to turn to the U.S. Supreme Court in a bid to end years of judicial control over California's overcrowded prison system.
In a three-page filing, the governor and his top prison officials notified a three-judge panel the state is appealing an April order requiring California to shed at least 10,000 more inmates by the end of December. The attorney general's office now has 60 days to file its full legal arguments with the Supreme Court.