Transcript: Gov. Jerry Brown’s remarks on terminating federal oversight of CA’s prison system & lifting the prison population cap

Transcript of remarks by Gov. Jerry Brown on ending federal oversight of California’s prisons and lifting the cap on the state’s prison population. The press briefing was held on Jan. 8, 2013:

I’m here to announce that the prison emergency in California, which has been responsive and – pardon me, the prison emergency is over in California.

Today, I’ve signed this proclamation stating that the troubled situation in California prisons has been remedied.

We’ve spent billions of dollars. We’ve hired hundreds, if not thousands, of professionals to make sure that we have excellent health care and excellent mental health care. And because of that, it is now time to return the control of our prison system to California.

We have the constitutional obligation. We have the expertise and we’re ready to do it.

There’s no question that there were big problems in California prisons – overcrowding, lack of health care, lack of mental health care, lots of other problems. But after decades of work, the job is now complete.

And that’s why today I’ve signed the executive order eliminating the emergency. It’ll be fully operative this summer. That’s number one.

Number two, I’ve filed papers last night to terminate the federal oversight of the mental health system. This is a very intrusive effort by federal judges to fix and remedy problems in the prison system. But at some point, the job is done.

I want you to see just what prison oversight actually means. These are reports – 25 of them – that cost – we pay the master about $48 million. That’s just what we’ve paid him.

And we’ve got hundreds of lawyers wandering around the prisons looking for problems. We’ve got a master that flies all the way across the continent and files these reports that now are becoming nitpicking. They’re looking at some little report that wasn’t happening – prisoners in a pill line had to wait a few extra minutes.

I mean we’ve gone from serious constitutional problem to one of the finest prison systems in the United States.

Most of the people in prison get far better care for mental health problems or their physical well-being inside the prison than they’ll get once they’re released on the streets.

So that’s the second goal is to terminate the oversight of our mental health system.

The third is we want to remove the cap on the number of people that we can hold in our prisons. Our prisons are not overcrowded. I know there’s a design capacity but that’s a somewhat arbitrary figure.

The experts that not only work here in California but whom we’ve hired to come and look at our system advise me that our system is meeting the highest standards of health care and mental health care. And for that reason, there’s no justification for the federal court to say can only hold a certain number of people in the prisons.

The prisons are now being run well and there’s no further need for this kind of prison cap.

I know a few months ago the federal court said, “Well, you have to get to a certain number.” That’s before we’ve had a thorough review of the prison system as to its health care improvements, and it’s there.

Finally, under protest, we’re offering some options for further release but make no mistake about it – releasing prisoners who are convicted of serious and dangerous crimes is not in the public interest; it’s not what the people of California have expressed through initiatives, through their legislative representatives. And as the Governor, I’m here to tell you I don’t believe it’s wise or sound public policy to release any more people out of our prison other than in accordance with our existing state law. And that is the reason why we are going to court asking that the prison cap or limit be removed.

Finally, these options that we’re presenting were ordered by the court to let out more – show us how they can let out more people from our prisons. We’ve shown them how but we don’t like it, and we don’t think it’s any good.

The counties already are laboring under realignment and all the tens of thousands of people that they now have to supervise they didn’t have to before. So it’s not a smart idea or a sound idea to add further to the burden of the counties.

The task is not to go through these reports. By the way, very few people have read these. I doubt if anybody on earth has read all of them, and yet we’re paying for them. We’ve got it. Enough already.

So the task now is to work on drug treatment, rehabilitation, job readiness, and re-entry.

We’ve got a new prison director. We’re geared up. We’re ready to go. And we will make that case before the courts, and whether we prevail or not in the Ninth Circuit, I’ll fight it as long as it takes.

As Attorney General 7 years ago, I started this battle and I’m going to continue it.

We have education. We’ve universities. We’ve got health care. We can’t let this drain on our scarce general fund dollars continue at the level of the last few years. It’s not needed. It’s not justified. It’s not constitutional. And I believe we will prevail in court.

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11 Comments on “Transcript: Gov. Jerry Brown’s remarks on terminating federal oversight of CA’s prison system & lifting the prison population cap

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