Criminal Law and Procedure

California Governor Brown Scrambles To Meet Federal Court Prison Order

BROWN SCRAMBLES TO MEET CA PRISON ORDER: Faced with yet another stinging rebuke from the federal court system over its overcrowded prisons, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Golden State prison officials said they will act to cull 9,600 inmates from the 33-prison system by the end of the year.

Most of those inmates will remain behind bars, either by being shifted to county jails, community correctional facilities or out-of-state prisons. But officials noted that as many as 1,000 may also be released outright, predominantly low-level offenders, elderly inmates and those with serious illnesses.

The release plan became necessary a little over a week ago after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Brown's appeal to stay an order to cull the inmates issued by a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court (see "In our view: Prison mess tarnishes Brown's 'CA Comeback'" in the Aug. 5 issue of SNCJ). The high court voted 6-3 to reject Brown's request, with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. Brown's request to nullify the order in its entirety is still expected to be taken up by the court later this fall.

But how this all plays out is still very much in question. As of last week, it was uncertain if the Brown administration was legally able to spend the money necessary to pay for keeping thousands of inmates in out-of-state lockups without first obtaining approval from the Legislature. In a meeting with reporters last Wednesday, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) said he would support the extra funding, but only if it was met with a "comparable effort to invest in more substance abuse and mental health treatment." The three-judge panel must ultimately approve of the state's overall plan. (SACRAMENTO BEE, LOS ANGELES TIMES)

CRIME & PUNISHMENT: ILLINOIS Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signs HB 958, which classifies domestic violence as a felony if the defendant has a prior domestic violence conviction. The law takes effect next January (ILLINOIS GOVERNOR'S OFFICE). • NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie (R) signs SB 1303, which makes it a fourth degree crime in the Garden to State to fail to provide an animal with sufficient food, water and other necessities. The crime would be elevated to a third degree offense if the animal dies (STAR-LEDGER [NEWARK]).

— Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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