California Corrections Secretary Jeff Beard said today the plan for inmate population reduction that he was forced to submit to a three-judge court Thursday is "unnecessary and unsafe."
If his department chose to take measures to reach the court-ordered population level of roughly 110,000 inmates in its 33 adult prisons by Dec. 31, Beard said, it would "cost taxpayers' millions of dollars, undermine public safety and jeopardize" Gov. Jerry Brown's existing realignment program that transferred responsibility for low-risk offenders to the counties.
The court in 2009 ordered more than a 60 percent cut in population after finding that overcrowded prison conditions are the primary cause of inmate health care so bad it is unconstitutional.
But Brown and Beard insist the problem has been solved by cutting the population to the bone - but approximately 9,500 inmates short of what the court wants - and other measures that have been taken in the intervening four years. Presently, they say, inmates have health care far exceeding the constitutional standard.
"This is an unprecedented undertaking," said Beard to reporters at a news conference. "Nothing like it has ever been done anywhere else in the nation."
The court-ordered plan for further cuts is "ugly," said the veteran penal executive, "but it's the best of the worst."