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California seeks to avoid early inmate releases

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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 12:00 am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Jerry Brown and the four leaders of California's Legislature reached a compromise Monday on reducing the state's prison population, offering to spend more money on rehabilitation efforts if a panel of federal judges will extend an end-of-the-year deadline to release thousands of inmates.

The deal relies on the state persuading three federal judges to give California time to let rehabilitation programs work rather than spend $315 million to lease cells in private prisons and county jails.

The leaders agreed that if the judges don't extend the deadline, the state will fall back on Brown's plan to lease the cells.

"There's insurance here against early release" of prisoners, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said at a news conference outside the governor's office.

Steinberg had opposed Brown's plan and wanted to ask the judges to delay the deadline for three years while the state gave counties $200 million annually for drug, mental health and other rehabilitation programs.

However, there is no guarantee the judges will go along.

The three-judge panel ordered the state to lower its prison population by about 9,600 inmates by year's end. Brown is appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices recently declined to delay the deadline set by the lower court.

Without an alternative, the judges have threatened to order the state to give thousands of inmates good time credits, which would lead to their early release. They have repeatedly threatened to hold Brown in contempt if the state does not meet the deadline to reduce the prison population to about 110,000 inmates.

The bill to be considered this week includes Brown's original plan to lease cells if the judges stick to the year-end deadline. If they grant an extension of time, a portion of the money that would have been spent to rent cells would instead go to rehabilitation programs.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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