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Brown Demands Relief from Federal Court Order on Prisons

Jan 9, 2013

Gov. Jerry Brown announces an end to the state of emergency in California's prison system at a Capitol news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A defiant Governor Jerry Brown is proclaiming an end to the state of emergency in California prisons and demanding that the federal courts let the state run its own corrections system again.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, there’s no guarantee the courts will do as he asks.

For years, California’s prison system has been one big complicated mess.  Two lawsuits led to federal courts taking control of the system’s physical and mental health care, and later, a three-judge panel ordered the state to reduce the population of its overcrowded prisons.  The US Supreme Court agreed with the panel.

Now, the governor says the prisons are under control.  He says the state has spent billions of dollars improving its prison health care, and his realignment program has reduced the number of inmates as much as possible without endangering the public.

“California is a powerful state.  We can run our own prisons.  And by God, let those judges give us our prisons back.  We’ll run ’em right,” says Brown. 

But the state’s prison population is still nearly 150 percent of design capacity – and well above the level required by the courts.  Prison health care critics say they’ll fight the governor on this – and Brown says he’s willing to take it all the way back to the Supreme Court.