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California finds too few inmates for early release

Posted: July 19, 2013 12:40 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2013 12:40 p.m.
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown's administration says in a court filing that the state is falling far short of meeting a demand from federal judges to find thousands of inmates who could be released from prison early without endangering the public.

The judges are requiring the state to free nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year to ease prison crowding as the best way to improve treatment for sick and mentally ill inmates. If other methods fail, they ordered the state to reach that level by releasing offenders who are deemed unlikely to commit new crimes.

However, the state said late Thursday that it has identified only about 1,200 inmates who could be safely released.

Inmates' attorneys are filing a challenge Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Brown's request to delay releasing the inmates. Last week, Brown asked the high court to delay inmate releases until it has a chance to consider the appeal.

The lower court has threatened to cite the Democratic governor for contempt if he does not reduce the prison population to about 110,000 inmates by Dec. 31. That 2009 order was backed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011.

Last month, the lower court directed the state to take steps, including expanding good-time credits leading to early release, sending more inmates to firefighting camps, paroling sick and elderly felons, leasing cells at county jails and slowing the return of thousands of inmates now housed in private prisons in other states. The state said in its filing that it is working on all those steps.

But the panel of three federal judges projected that all those measures would still fall nearly 4,200 inmates short of reaching the population cap. They directed the state to release the remainder from what it dubbed the Low-Risk List if other options fail.

However, the administration said it so far can identify only 1,205 lower risk inmates from among the 133,000 inmates who remain in the state's 33 adult prisons, four private prisons and assorted fire camps and community correctional centers.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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