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Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and California Governor Jerry Brown are locked in a dispute over which prisoners might be eligible for early release if voters approve Proposition 57. It's a measure backed by Brown as a remedy to the state's prison overcrowding problems, and a rollback of so-called "determinate sentencing" that Brown signed into law during his first stint in Sacramento in the 1970s. Mims says the law could let certain sexual offenders and others convicted of "nonviolent" crimes as defined in California's Penal Code, out of jail early.

Audit Finds That California Prisoners Were Illegally Sterilized

Jun 21, 2014
CDCR

A California State Audit has found that dozens of women in state prisons were sterilized illegally. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone says prison medical officials are faulted for not following consent laws.  

Lawmakers called for the audit after coverage from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year. The Center found more than 100 incarcerated women had tubal ligations without proper approvals since 2006.

Brown Praises Counties' Creativity In Implementing Realignment

Apr 2, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown is praising counties and law enforcement agencies for their work implementing his landmark criminal justice system overhaul known as “realignment.”  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the law enforcement groups are lobbying the governor for a significant change to the program. Speaking to a law enforcement convention in Sacramento, the governor praised counties’ creativity under realignment in the two and a half years since it took effect.  Under the program, the state shifted responsibility for low-level offenders to counties. 

California Begins Sending Inmates to Private Prisons

Oct 28, 2013
The GEO Group, Inc.

California is beginning to transfer inmates out of its state prisons. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the transfers are part of a court-mandated plan to reduce overcrowding in state prisons

California is sending 2,100 inmates to three private prisons within the state. James Black is with the GEO group, which operates the facilities. He says GEO’s prisons must meet the same standards the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must meet.

Do California's Security Housing Units Reduce Prison Violence?

Oct 17, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

California’s prison system uses Security Housing Units, or SHUs, as a way to isolate alleged gang members from the general inmate population. But gangs remain a problem in prisons and the outcry over using solitary confinement for long periods of time is growing. Now some lawmakers are asking whether the SHUs are working.

Steven Czifra spent four years locked up in a Security Housing Unit. Isolated from other inmates, alone in his cell for 22 ½ hours a day, he said there wasn’t much too do.

At Pelican Bay, A Look Inside California's Security Housing Units

Oct 16, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Imagine spending 22 hours a day locked in a small, concrete room. That’s daily life for about four-thousand California prisons inmates. On a recent media tour, journalists got glimpse of that life on a visit to the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Nearly 1,200 men are housed in the complex of low, concrete buildings. To get to them you have to go pass through a series of heavy gates and doors.

Lawmakers Take Closer Look at State Prison SHUs

Oct 9, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Members of the California legislature are focusing their attention on Security Housing Units within state prisons. Katie Orr has details on a hearing held today in Sacramento.

Legislature Overwhelmingly Approves Prison Plan

Sep 11, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

The California Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a deal between the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Assembly to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. California has been ordered by a federal three-judge-panel to either release or find additional space for more than nine thousand inmates by the end of December.

Under the deal, California will ask the panel for an extension on the December deadline. Any savings would be put toward programs to keep people out of jail.

Prisons Battle Heats Up at California Capitol

Sep 4, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California Senate Democrats have approved their own plan to deal with the federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding.  They pushed their proposal through the Senate Budget Committee today over the objections of Republicans and Governor Jerry Brown.

Corrections Secretary Jeff Beard lobbied strongly for Brown’s plan, known as Senate Bill 105.  It would increase capacity by contracting out beds from county, private and out-of-state facilities.

Brown Releases Plan to Ease Prison Overcrowding

Aug 27, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Thousands of California inmates may be transferred to other facilities in an effort to ease prison overcrowding. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the plan comes after multiple federal court orders.

To be clear, Governor Jerry Brown doesn’t think California needs to do any more to ease prison overcrowding. He notes the inmate population has dropped by 45,000 since 2006.  But multiple federal judges were not convinced and repeatedly ordered the state to further reduce overcrowding. That could happen by releasing inmates or finding more space.

Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

As an inmate hunger strike in California stretches on, prison reform advocates want the rest of us to know what it’s like inside a SHU. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa spends 22 1/2 hours a day in Security Housing Unit, or SHU. It’s a room the size of a parking spot. Jamma has been living that reality for the past 29 years. He’s an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison and is participating in a hunger strike to protest the use of long term solitary confinement. 

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5349/7432022562_c66ef5ceb0_b_d.jpg
Flickr user Mark Fischer / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to delay the release of thousands of inmates from California’s prisons. In a decision announced today the Justices denied a stay requested by Governor Jerry Brown. Brown is fighting a ruling from a federal three-judge-panel that orders California to reduce its prison population by about 10-thousand inmates by the end of the year. Three Justices voted to grant the stay.

Attorney Mike Bien represents inmates involved in the court case. He says the decision is significant because it appears the state was gambling everything on this stay.

State Attempts to Track Effect of Realignment

Jul 23, 2013

A state board agreed this week to partner with the Public Policy Institute of California to examine the effects of a change to the state’s criminal justice policy called realignment.

California’s two-year old law downgraded certain crimes to jail-only offenses, diverting tens of thousands of lower-level felons from serving time in state prisons. It also put counties in charge of supervising lower level felons once they’re released from prison and parole violators.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The number of California prison inmates on a hunger strike has dramatically dropped.  But 12,000 inmates still refused to eat for a fourth consecutive day Thursday to protest the common use of long-term isolation.  As KPCC’s Julie Small reports, that’s triggering an aggressive state response.

Prison Medical Facility Opens in Stockton

Jun 25, 2013
http://www.chcfstockton.com/

California prison officials opened a new medical facility in Stockton today designed to improve treatment for 1,700 of the state’s sickest inmates.  The opening of the 200-acre facility will also ease crowding in prisons — something that could appease a federal court that has ordered California to reduce the inmate population to ensure they receive basic healthcare.  KPCC’s  Julie Small reports.

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