Last month, SF Weekly told readers about a Supreme Court decision to force California to cut its inmate population -- drastically. Today, Gov. Jerry Brown told the courts that he has the perfect plan in mind: Shift state prisoners to county jails.
Admittedly, Brown's Administration says it won't be able to meet the courts deadlines to reduce the state's prison population, which is 200 percent beyond capacity. However, he claims if the state could just move nonviolent prisoners into county jails, this will almost certainly put the state on the right path to cut the prison population by 33,000 over the next two years.
Brown already signed into law legislation that would permit this shift. However, money to pay for more cells and rehabilitation in county jails is stalled in the Legislature.
The state's 33 prisons are currently housing 143,565 inmates -- and its capacity is 88,000.
Eileen Hirst, spokeswoman with the San Francisco County Jail, told us that S.F. could receive as many as 320 inmates within the first few months should this program be implemented. After that, she estimated that San Francisco will receive another 40 state prisoners every month. This could mean San Francisco would have to reopen one of its closed jails, which would cost $16 million -- at least.
The overcrowding state prisons has long been an issue that came to a head last month with the Supreme Court ruling. Justices said the prison overcrowding was creating unsafe and unsanitary conditions that has led to sweeping illnesses and deaths. The state has been reporting one suicide a week and increased risks of infectious diseases.
The court decided there was not enough medical care or proper facilities to meet prisoners' mental and physical health needs. In some cases, 54 prisoners were sharing one toilet.
Essentially, justices left it up to the state to figure out how to reduce the prison population, whether it was sending inmates to other states, or spreading them across county jails. But now that the Supreme Court has given the state this mandate, it packs the pressure on Republicans to release funding that would help counties house these prisoners.
Matthew Cate, secretary of