SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday responded to a federal court order to significantly reduce California’s prison population by proposing a $315 million plan to send thousands of inmates to private prisons and vacant county jail cells, hoping to avoid what he said would be a mass release of dangerous felons.
The cost could reach $700 million over two years, with much of the money likely to come from a $1.1 billion reserve fund in the state budget.
During a news conference at the Capitol, Brown bristled at the court’s suggestion that the state could continue its early release of certain inmates to meet the federal judges’ population cap. He noted that California has already reduced the prison population by some 46,000 inmates to comply with the court’s orders and said only the most dangerous convicts remain in state prison.
The judges have ordered the state to release an additional 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.
Brown, however, said sending them to available cells in privately run prisons within California and in other states, as well as to empty jail cells, is the best way to meet the court’s mandate without endangering public safety.
“Public safety is the priority, and we’ll take care of it,” the governor said. “The money is there.”
The plan will now head to an uncertain fate in the Legislature, where the two Democratic leaders are at odds.