Attorney David Chesley's Criminal Defense Blog

California Releasing Around 1,000 Inmates Early.

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Overcrowding in a CA State Prison

California, currently under court orders to minimize the crowding of their prisons by the end of the year is facing a tough time figuring out how to relocate 9,600 inmates. Officials claim that they may be forced to free about 1,000 inmates before they complete their prison sentences.

Many offenders are being transferred to privately owned prisons and county jails where they will complete their sentences, but low-level criminals, ill and elderly inmates could be released early according to state plans.

In order to relieve our overcrowded prisons, state officials are working on a deal to move hundreds of inmates to Alameda county jail within coming weeks, they are also considering re-opening two low-security detention centers located in Kern county. Many inmates are also being moved to other state prisons.

The steps that need to be taken in order to relieve our prisons of overcrowding will be costly,  and even after they move as many prisoners as they can, they will still need to free about 1,000 inmates. Currently correction officials and medical personnel are reviewing their discharge rules, and evaluating several inmates in order to determine who is eligible for release.

Governor Jerry Brown believes that the U.S. Supreme Court order to relieve overcrowding in California state prisons could harm public safety, but his administration is forced to comply with the ruling.

This could create problems for Brown, who is expected of running for reelection in the coming year. Jeffrey Beard, Brown’s corrections secretary had this to say about plans to release inmates, “the closer we get to the end of the year, the more difficult it becomes to avoid releases.”

Currently no releases have been scheduled, but officials have already developed new criteria for seriously ill prisoner’s releases. Before an inmate would have to be in 24-hour care in order to qualify for release, under the new criteria, inmates who are terminally ill or suffer from a severe disability will be eligible for release.

Along with the new criteria for medical releases, new rules for paroling elderly inmates have also been put into place. Prisoners who are at least 60 and have served 25 years or more of their sentence may be eligible for early parole.

Inmates who are facing death or life without parole sentences will remain ineligible, regardless of age or medical illness.

At the Central California Women’s Facility near Chowchilla, 30 female inmates have already been referred to the parole board for consideration. These prisoners would be released to nursing homes. There is no information available on when their cases would be decided.

Officials have identified around 1,200 prisoners who have less than a year left in their sentence. These prisoners are considered to be less likely to commit a new crime.

A prison consultant working with attorneys who have sued California over crowding in its prisons, James Austin said that with less than half a year left to meet the court orders, California officials are unlikely to avoid early releases.

The Brown administration is doing everything it can to avoid early releases, but officials do not believe that the state can spend any more money on alternative housing for prisoners.

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