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Governor Gets a Budget Assist From SCOTUS

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Governor Gets a Budget Assist From SCOTUS

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A guard tower is seen on the grounds of the California State Prison at San Quentin January 22, 2007 in San Quentin, California.

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Teleflora should expect a call from the state capitol today. Flowers headed to Anthony Kennedy.

 

Kennedy supplied the swing vote in the 5-4 decision that upholds a federal court order requiring the California prison system to cut loose some 46,000 prison inmates over a two-year period. A three judge federal panel ordered the reduction because of systemic overcrowding which violates a constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. The crowded conditions resulted in a prison health care system that, while having improved over the past few years, leads the nation in suicides and preventable deaths.
 
The order doesn't mean the inmates are let free. It does mean that the state must find another place for them, either in county jails or in out-of-state private prisons.
 
For the governor, this may be the break he needs to help reduce the prison system's massive budget. It also puts some teeth behind a bill he signed last month that shifts low risk state prison inmates to county jails.
 
The problem with the legislation is that there is no money to pay for the program.  By requiring a quarter of the state's inmate population to be sent elsewhere, the governor may be able to save on the prison's budget -- enough to pay for the shift of tens of thousands of inmates to county jails. He may also be able to send others to out of state prisons that cost less. Such a move has been opposed by the powerful CCPOA, the prison guards union.
 
When signing the bill that re-directed non-violent inmates to county jails, the governor stated that the current prison system "is a failure."  The Supreme Court is now on record as being in agreement. 

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