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  • Rich Pedroncelli / The Associated Press

    Inmates walk through the exercise yard at California State Prison Sacramento, near Folsom in February. The Supreme Court rejected California's appeal of a lower court order that could force the state to release thousands of California prison inmates before they complete their sentences.


    Gov. Jerry Brown talks to the media Tuesday as he makes a case for ending federal judges' control of California prisons' population and medical care.

No agreement expected in prison overcrowding talks, judges say

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 - 12:00 am

A panel of three federal judges indicated Monday that it expects negotiations aimed at settling California’s prison overcrowding issue to fail and that a final order in the long-running matter will come within 30 days.

The judges issued an order Monday that extends the April deadline for California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity. That order was issued in 2009 and gave the state two years to pare the number of inmates to the required level, but the deadline has been extended by the judges.

Now, the three judges – U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento, U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson in San Francisco and Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – have concluded that ongoing “meet and confer” discussions between lawyers for the state and inmates will not result in an agreement.

“It now appears that no such agreement will be reached, and the court therefore intends to issue an order within the next 30 days as to whether it will grant, deny or grant in part and deny in part the state’s request for an extension of time in which to comply with (earlier) orders” to reduce inmate population to the designated level, the judges wrote.

Since September, the judges have issued three orders allowing the two sides to continue talks aimed at resolving the overcrowding issue. State corrections figures show the current inmate population in California’s 34 adult prisons at 118,435. The population must be trimmed to 112,164 inmates to comply with the original order to get to 137.5 percent of design capacity, which is 81,574 inmates.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has reduced the inmate population by more than 40,000 in recent years through a variety of measures, including his realignment plan, which shifts responsibility for low-level, nonviolent offenders to the counties.

The judges’ Monday order requires lawyers for both sides to file proposed orders by Jan. 23 for the court to consider, and extends the April 18 deadline for meeting the judges’ demand that the 137.5 percent level be reached by the lapsed time between Monday and whenever the judges issue their final ruling.

Michael Bien, lead counsel for the inmates, said Monday’s order is simply a “heads up” as to what the court plans, and it directs the parties to let the judges know what each side believes is the appropriate deadline.

State corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said in a statement that officials “are hopeful the court will recognize that the state has made significant reforms to our criminal justice system and will allow us an extension so we can build upon these landmark reforms.”

Call The Bee’s Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.

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