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Prisons Battle Heats Up at Calif. Capitol

 
Screen shot courtesy of CalChannel

The Calif. Senate Budget Committee meets Wednesday at the state Capitol to review two proposals for complying with the federal court order to reduce overcrowding in the state's prison system.

Screen shot courtesy of CalChannel

A Senate Budget Committee hearing starkly outlined differences between plans pushed by Governor Jerry Brown and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg.  Brown would increase capacity by contracting beds at county, private and out-of-state facilities.

Here's an exchange at the hearing between Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) and Brown’s Corrections Secretary, Jeff Beard:
Berryhill: “Could the failure to act on that bill immediately lead to early release of a lot of bad, bad guys?”
Beard: “Yes it could.”

But Senate Democrats who pushed Steinberg’s proposal through the Budget Committee Wednesday say it wouldn’t lead to any early releases.  And they support investing in mental health and substance abuse programs to reduce recidivism.

Afterwards, Steinberg said his proposal could be tweaked: “Our plan does not currently consider any additional capacity,” he told reporters outside the Senate chambers.  “And what I’ve signaled today – and I said it again at the beginning of the hearing – that I think that there is room for capacity.”

But the governor quickly issued a statement calling Steinberg’s proposal “an inmate release plan by another name.”  The sides have just over a week to reach a deal before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

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Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio