Transcript: California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s remarks on the state’s new plan to reduce prison population – May 3, 2013

Transcript of press briefing remarks by Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, on the state’s new plan to reduce prison population to meet the federal court’s order. The press briefing was held on May 3, 2013:

I’d like to start by saying that this is not a fight between the federal courts and the state prison system. This is about the people of California.

The federal judges ask us to submit a population reduction plan that would either jeopardize public safety, undermine realignment, or cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

In order to satisfy the court’s order and to avoid contempt of court charges, we have submitted a population reduction plan but we are doing so under protest.

We have respectfully asked the federal courts to vacate or modify their arbitrary 137.5% of original design capacity population cap. This is about more than percentages. This is about the safety of our communities and scarce tax dollars.

Since this case was originally filed, the state has transformed the prison health care system into one of the best in the nation.

We have spent well over $1 billion investing in new health care facilities and new treatment space. We have hired hundreds of new doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and other medical and mental health staff.

At the same time, we have dramatically reduced the prison population. There are now over 42,000 fewer inmates in California prisons than there were in 2006. Just in the past year and a half, we have dropped the prison population by more than 25,000 inmates.

This is an unprecedented undertaking – something that has not been done before in California, and something that has not been done anywhere in this nation.

And yet the courts have chosen not to acknowledge these sweeping changes.

I testified for the plaintiffs in 2008. I was speaking the truth then when I said that I thought the system was too overcrowded to provide quality care.

But that was then and this is now. I am speaking the truth today when I say that this is a different system. This is a system that is delivering quality care – a constitutional level of care.

Any further forced reductions in our population is both unnecessary and unsafe.

I’m disappointed that the judges have not taken an in-depth look at all we’ve done. There hasn’t been a hearing in this case since 2008.

This should be about more than a number. This case is too important to the people of California, to the safety of our neighborhoods. It warrants a fair consideration of the evidence.

The courts should be looking at whether we are providing quality care not whether we’ve met their 137.5% figure. That number is based on an outdated original design capacity not today’s operating capacity.

Original design capacity in California assumes one person per cell and it doesn’t take into consideration the treatment space that we’ve added in our institutions. Not one prison system in the nation, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, measures capacity in this way. Double-celling is the norm throughout the country and is recognized as appropriate by the American Correctional Association, the nation’s highly respected prison accreditation organization.

I submit to you that if we look at true operating capacity, we would be well within the court’s population cap.

But today, we have been ordered to submit a plan to further reduce our population. The plan is ugly. We don’t like it. But considering the inmates we have left in our prison population, it’s the best plan that we could come up with.

Now, let me be clear. There has been some confusion out there in some of the more recent press. We were ordered to do two things: One, we were to list all possible population reduction options. And second, to give them a plan to further reduce our population.

We’ve provided a plan which consisted of the best of the bad options that were presented in the first list.

The details are laid out in our filing but essentially it’s a three-part plan. All but the expanded fire camp portion of the plan will require legislative approval.

The majority of the plan – about 90% – is increasing capacity. We will be doing that by continuing to use out-of-state beds but only until those inmates were housed out-of-state as of June 30th of this year finish their sentences.

We will maximize the use of our fire camps. We will contract with county jails for additional beds. And moving forward, we will lease additional secure in-state beds that we will operate.

The second part of the plan includes increasing some credits for certain inmates. None of those inmates will be violent offenders. It will not be retroactively applied, and there will be no further realignment because those inmates that are released under the lower credits will remain on state parole and if they fail they will return back to state prison.

The third part of the plan involves expanding the criteria for medical parole and creating parole for some elderly inmates. Eligible inmates will go through a thorough review by the Board of Parole Hearings. Again, there will be no effect on the counties as those offenders will go on state parole and should they fail they will return to state prison.

This plan is about 2,500 inmates short of the 137.5% mark that the court established for the end of this year but that is within 2% of what the court ordered, and the plan we present going forward will allow us to meet the court’s target by next year.

There is simply no way that we could meet the court’s number by the end of this year without adding more responsibilities on the counties, jeopardizing realignment and adversely affecting the public safety.

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2 Comments on “Transcript: California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s remarks on the state’s new plan to reduce prison population – May 3, 2013

  1. Pingback: California present "ugly" plan to comply with court order to reduce inmate population | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard on the state's new plan to reduce prison population - May 3, 2013 | What The Folly?!

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