Transcript: Press briefing Q&A w/ Gov. Jerry Brown on CA’s prisons

Transcript of press briefing Q&A with Gov. Jerry Brown on California’s prisons on Jan. 8, 2013:

Question:
…Property crimes appear to be increasing in California and a lot of the local police authorities are blaming realignment saying that miscreants are let out of county jails to make room for diverted felons, and what’s your response to that?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
…That reinforces our argument to remove the prison cap, to not release any more serious felons out of our state prisons other than those that are required under existing law. So that makes that point.

In terms of realignment, I reject the notion that this is contributing to anything but the public interest. People committing crimes in their local community and they are now, to a greater degree being supervised, being rehabilitated, or being incarcerated locally. We’re transferring billions of dollars to achieve that goal. I think it is very sound.

There we are. We have some people who say there are not enough dangerous felons on the street. We have another group who says, “Wait a minute, stop, we’ve got too many.” I think we’ve hit the right balance and I will continue pushing that objective because we have to bring down our prison spending, our correctional costs, as we invest more money in our schools, in our education as voted in Proposition 30.

Question:
…You received a letter from a group of lawmakers last month concerned about the formulas in realignment, saying they didn’t have enough money in their counties to deal with these people. Can you respond – are you going to change that? Are you going to work on that?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
This is a very complex government undertaking. Realignment is not some slogan. It’s a complicated readjustment in a longstanding method of handling criminals in our state. So yes, we’re going to be tweaking it. We’re going to be adjusting it. We’ll calibrate it. And we listen to what people say. But remember, money is a big deal around here. People always want more, not less. So we’ll allocate it in the wisest way we can and where we can make improvement in realignment, certainly that will be welcomed.

Question:
So they may not get everything they’re looking for?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
No one is going to get everything they’re looking for. Self-restraint, fiscal discipline, and working together is the watch word of 2013.

Question:
Governor, are you saying then that people were released under AB 109 that should not have been?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
No. 109…

Question:
Well, we’re talking about the people that were…

Gov. Jerry Brown:
There’s no one released under 109.

Question:
Well, I know that’s a matter of semantics.

Gov. Jerry Brown:
No, it’s not a matter of semantics. They don’t come to the state because they commit these crimes which are lower level in the community and we want the community that spawns the crime to handle the crime, and we’re giving them billions of dollars that are now constitutionally guaranteed by Proposition 30 to be available for years into the future. So yes, it’s difficult but we’re torn between the prison lawyers and the ACLU and others who say “Wait a minute, we need thousands more out of your prisons” and we have other people who say “No, we need thousands more into your prisons.” And if we give in to the extremes, we will create either a threat to public safety or spend billions of dollars more. I have found a middle path that is the best that I can figure. Now, if other people have some other ideas, I’ll listen. But I really think we’ve had some good people working on it. And after decades of confusion and plenty of mismanagement, our prison system is under some very top leadership and I’m confident they can handle it.

Question:
…Were there people released under realignment that should not have been put on the streets?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
No…

Question:
In cities like Fresno that had tremendous spikes in crime because known gang members were released onto the streets. Were there people released under realignment that should not have been?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
We didn’t release anybody. We’re saying at the local level handle the less serious crimes, and if people violate parole from state prison, under certain conditions those are handled locally.

Look, the name of the game in politics is to shift responsibility. We all do it, ok? So if you’re down at the local level, crime spikes, you’ve got to point to Sacramento. Sacramento’s problem. It’s all of our responsibility to make a prison system that is fiscally sound and that protects public safety. I’m doing the best way we can. We don’t have a lot of money. We got to pay down the wall of debt. We have uncertain economic times. We can’t pour more and more dollars down the rat hole of incarceration. We have to spend as much as we need but no more. And I think we’ve hit that point in accordance with the plans that I put out. Anybody’s got better ideas, I’ll look at them but I reject the claims from Fresno and from Los Angeles and other places. We’ll listen to them but we’re squeezed here. The federal Supreme Court says let them out. My conscience tells me don’t let all of them out and protect, and that’s what this system is – it’s a middle path. It’s well-informed. It’s not political – not trying to shift blame or responsibility. We take responsibility. I do take responsibility for realignment. I think it’s the boldest move in criminal justice in decades.

Question:
How are you going to convince the Ninth Circuit – you’ve taken many of these arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court, were turned back. The administration’s argued to have this newer conditions considered in whether the cap should be lifted – they turned you back. They said go back to the Ninth Circuit. You’ve requested this before to them and they’re saying we want a plan and they don’t look likely to change their minds.

Gov. Jerry Brown:
Look, big difference. The last time we had to go up to the Supreme Court, we were prevented by the court from introducing evidence of the changed conditions in our prison. There’s a mythology that somehow prison medical care is not as good as on the outside. Not true. We have hired experts to come in and actually go through the prisons, and they’ve come back and those are declarations that you can get – they’re in the court filings – that say our system of care is among the best in the United States, if not in the world. We now have the documentary evidence to make our case. I’m hopeful we’ll prevail in the Ninth Circuit. If we don’t, we have a direct appeal on matter of the prison cap to the U.S. Supreme Court and we will go there if needed.

Question:
…federal receivership said you are not done and attorneys for the inmates have said this is – the preventable deaths remain high and it’s the highest suicide rate ever in the last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown:
I categorically reject those. You know, this is the business of he said, she said. You have conscientious people standing behind me – you can ask them some questions because I’m going to leave in about 10 minutes. We’re trying to do the best by public safety. This is not a game. You know, I didn’t come here – you know, I’ll be 75 in April – just to screw around. I’m trying to fix this state that has been screwed up for a long time. And we’re fixing the money problems. We’re fixing the prison problems. And I believe that the U.S. Supreme Court – if it gets to that – will affirm that we have spent this money. By the way, we’ve spent billions, billions, and billions of money that is not going to childcare, it’s not going to schools, it’s not going to higher ed, it’s going to build – it’s going to gold plate at this point – a prison system. And the lawyers for the other side can say all they want but I don’t think they got a case and I’m confident we’ll either win in the Ninth Circuit or we’ll win in appeal.

Question:
Governor, you mentioned that some of the counties are laboring under realignment. I’d like you to address if you could GPS tracking the monitoring of prisoners who’ve been released. We know that CDCR’s told us that they’re hundreds of them out there that have cut their GPS bracelets – they’re not being monitored. Sen. Lieu has introduced a measure to make that a felony, send them back to prison. What is your thoughts on that?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
Well, look, everybody wants to send people to prison; nobody wants to pay for it. There’s only so much money. We’re proposing increases in education at the higher level and in K-12. If people think it’s a better investment to divert that money to prisons, they can try but I’m going to fight it. And I’m going to fight it hard, because I think what $8 or $9 billion that we’re spending at the state level and tens of billions more at the local level and the courts – we have enough money in the criminal justice system. What we need to do now is to collaborate, work as best we can to make it as safe as possible. We know people get out of prison even after they serve their term and they commit serious crimes. 50%, 70% who are released righteously under the law do some other offense and they got to come back. It’s not a perfect system. It’s not a totally safe world. I’m trying to find the balance point – the middle path that spends the right amount of money to achieve a decent amount of public safety. That’s what I’m trying to do.

If the legislature wants to divert money, certainly I’ll look at that. I don’t think anyone want to do it. Most people want to spend more money that the state has. And I will tell you 2013 is the year of fiscal discipline and living within our means, and I’m going to make sure that happens.

By the way, living within our means means we don’t get everything. You know, people want more childcare, they want to have more people locked up, they want to have more rehab, more, more, more, more judges, more courtrooms. We have to live within reasonable limits.

Gov. Jerry Brown:
This is a very important matter that we’ve been struggling with for decades. We see light at the end of the tunnel…

Question:
The advocates for prison law office advocates for inmates question why you’re putting so much energy into fighting the reduction of a further 6,000 to 9,000 inmates, which they argue could be done easily and cheaply rather than dragging this state through yet another round and all the way up to the Supreme Court. Is it stubbornness?

Gov. Jerry Brown: [pointing to the reports]

Question:
I’ve read most of those. [laughter]

Gov. Jerry Brown:
I’ve read some of them…Really acronyms go for 6 pages? I don’t agree with what the prison advocates are saying. My job is public safety not advocating at public expense. They had a good point. The prison systems were screwed up. We’ve done a lot to fix them. But just a couple of years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the prison lobby wanted the state to spend $8 billion on all sorts of new prison facilities, including those with yoga rooms. I stopped that. I told Schwarzenegger, “Don’t do that. That’s a dumb idea.”

I’ve been at this for 7 years. I’m looking to have a reasonable prison system. We have a blueprint. We’re totally committed to drug treatment, rehabilitation. I’ve taken a much more, I think, progressive position with respect to paroles and pardons. I want to make this system humane but I want to make it protective of public safety. This is my judgment. I don’t stick in one position unreasonably. I listen to people. I’ll read what the other side says. We’ll meet them in court, and we think we’re right. We’re not being dragged – well, we are being dragged but it isn’t me doing that. You know, when you try to run a prison system, which these individuals – Terry and Martin – they have to run this thing. Now you have all these lawyers crawling all over the place looking for this and that. And if we had put you under federal oversight, I bet we’d find Walter isn’t doing quite what he’s supposed to do and Sider [sp] probably leaves a few Post-it notes on his desk and somebody else doesn’t clean the trash. I mean, the fact of the matter is these are good people, you know – look at these guys. The premise is that they’re bad or they’re ignorant. I reject that.

California is a powerful state. We can run our own prisons. And by God, let those judges give us our prisons back. We’ll run them right.

Question:
I just want to clarify that you’re not talking about getting rid of the receiver…

Gov. Jerry Brown:
Not today, but we’re gonna get rid of the receiver…

Question:
But that’s not what this filing was?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
No.

Question:
…How much of this reform would play into your budget plans for the future? Is this a big portion of getting these burdens off of your plate big to your budget plans?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
In two respects: We’re wasting a lot of money on nonsense. Number two, by diverting our effort we can’t have our management leadership handle the prisons according to their best judgment. I want to work on drug treatment. I want to work on more guys getting their high school degree, their college degree, getting ready to go out into the world. More re-entry programs. Now we’ve reduced over 43,000. People act like nothing happened. 43,000 fewer people in prison. Billions and billions and billions of dollars are spent. All I’m here to tell you is we’ve won – we’ve done it. The prison groups – they’ve actually beat down the great state of California. We’ve shaped up. We’re standing at attention. We’re ready to go forward. And these people are not politicians. They were here before me. They’re doing a good job. They got a lot of people before them. I’ve taken their own experts and I made them the head of corrections. So you know what more do they want? I think you get a pretty good deal here and I’m going to fight for it because I believe it’s right, I believe it protects public safety, it saves public funds, and it’s consistent with the sovereign right of the state of California to manage its most essential function and that is taking care of its criminal justice system.

Question:
Can you balance the budget without these changes?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
These are part of the program. We have a lot of things. This is one piece.

Question:
But I mean is this a big enough piece that you’d have a problem balancing the budget if this wasn’t…?

Gov. Jerry Brown:
This is a big human piece. We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about trying to run a system that makes sense. And there’s something wrong to me when we give health care better than most – I’d say most people don’t get as good as health care as you get in the prisons, and yet we’re told it’s bad. And I can tell you the people who fly across the continent and make these enormous sums denounce how bad everything is, they don’t want to go away. I mean, the name of the game here is come to Sacramento and get your little piece of the pie. Well, I’m the cook here and I’ve got to cut the slices in fair amounts and I think we’ve cut a big enough slice for the prison…and I’m ready to move on. That’s why we’re here. And I don’t think it’ll take too much more time to go to the Ninth Circuit, and I think they’re going to be impressed that the very critic – namely, the plaintiff’s expert witness – is now running the system. So he’s very well aware of the issues that are at hand here.

###

Learn More:

4 Comments on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A w/ Gov. Jerry Brown on CA’s prisons

  1. Pingback: Federal judge rules California officials violated rules of ethics in Coleman v. Brown | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: California argues federal court cannot mandate "perfection" in prison mental health system | What The Folly?!

  3. Pingback: Transcript: Gov. Jerry Brown's remarks on terminating federal oversight of CA's prison system & lifting the prison population cap | What The Folly?!

  4. Pingback: ANALYSIS: "Profound" ethical violations undermine expert testimonies in California's bid to lift federal oversight of prison system | What The Folly?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>