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Brown challenges court oversight of California prisons

  • Gov. Jerry Brown discuss the proclamation he signed declaring the end to the prison overcrowding emergency, during a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Brown is challenging a federal court order for California to reduce its inmate population and is calling for federal judges to return control of prisons to the state. Brown's proclamation will allow the state to phase out the use of private out-of-state prison beds for California inmates starting in July of 2013.(Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

SACRAMENTO — Reducing California's inmate population further to meet a federal order would endanger public safety and require the state to ignore its own sentencing laws, Gov. Jerry Brown warned Tuesday as he challenged judges to reject those options.

After years of changes, the Democratic governor said California would have to grant shorter sentences to inmates convicted of violent or serious felonies to meet the court's mandate.

He also called for restoring the state's authority over its prison system, vowing to take that battle to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The prison population cap was imposed in 2009 after federal judges blamed crowding for dismal conditions that violated inmates' constitutional rights and resulted in the death of an average of one inmate a week due to neglect or poor care.

The judges gave the state until June to reduce the population of California's 33 adult prisons by about 33,000 inmates, to a total of 110,000 inmates.


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