Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard on the state’s new plan to reduce prison population – May 3, 2013

Transcript of press briefing Q&A with 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:

Question:
…It seems as though what the state, the administration is telling the court is two things: Give us the flexibility with that 2,500 number or be prepared for things that are not in the best interest of the state.

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Absolutely. The court has to make the decision but we believe we’ve given a plan to them. As I’ve said, it’s not a good plan but it’s the best of the worst, and you know our hope is that will be suitable for the court and as we move forward.

Question:
You’re hoping then that they’ll give you the flexibility on the 137.5%?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Absolutely. I can’t speak for the court.

Question:
This plan include the early release of some prisoners…In the end, should the public be worried about public safety…an increase in crime, in violence?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, first of all, I don’t see this as being an early release. An early release is what the plaintiffs want us to do where you go retroactively and just let people out. In this case, you would be rewarding people a little early for good behavior or you would be rewarding people somewhat for completing programs. That, in my mind, is not an early release.

Question:
But would this plan in the end, whether it’s early release or people getting out in other times other than when they would have, are we compromising public safety?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
I think as we’ve said we don’t like the plan. It’s the best thing we could come up with. One of the reasons to reduce the impact on public safety is to focus on the non-violent offenders and that’s why there would only be non-violent offenders as part of the plan.

Question:
One of the things the court was looking for in this plan is that [inaudible audio]…to prevent the prisons from being overcrowded again. Are you confident that your measures can do that for the long term?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
We believe that the measures we’re putting forward will meet what the court wants and going forward, we believe that the remedy can be durable, yes.

Question:
Even though it seems like most of it is based on instructions that we’re seeing inmates are going to continue to age in our system and how sustainable is leasing beds…?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, we plan to get out of leasing the out-of-state beds as soon as we can. I’ve already said that I think out-of-state is a necessary evil and it creates a lot of complications. My plan would be to reduce that as much as we can and then to try to reduce the reliance on other leased beds as soon as we can as well. As we move to the out years we do get more benefit from some of the things that are being proposed here.

Question:
What are some of the things that specifically will need legislative approval?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Everything that is in our plan will need legislative approval with the exception of the expanded fire camps because it either requires more money or it requires some change in state law.

Question:
Given that you announced that your plan falls short of what the court in strong language in April asked you to do, are you confident this will allow you to avoid being held in contempt?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
I would certainly hope so and again I can’t speak for the court. Look, we did the best we could do for the people of California and protect the public safety. And you know, that’s all I can say. We can’t do any more without creating huge problems for the counties, without creating huge problems for this historic realignment that occurred, and without creating huge problems for the public safety, and we just won’t do that.

Question:
[Inaudible audio]

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Again, I can’t speak for the court…Well, the court has asked us within 100 days and now I guess since it’s 21 days so we have about 79 days I guess to give the court a list of what are considered low-risk offenders and so I guess they could potentially take that list and order releases from that list. However, I would remind everybody that low risk does not mean no risk and we would certainly not want the courts to do that and my hope is that they wouldn’t.

Question:
[Inaudible audio]

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Well, there’s still people. When you look at low-risk, you see that’s the problem. The only remaining – and that’s a good point because the only remaining low-risk people that are left in the system are people you might consider serious and violent offenders. They are low risk to recidividate maybe but still they are serious offenders and that’s the group the court would have to order to release from.

Question:
Yet you feel that you have enough low-risk people within that serious offender population to move to minimum security fire camps?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
We’re not moving any serious and violent into fire camps.

Question:
How would you expand the eligibility criteria for fire camps?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
We’re not expanding the eligibility criteria. What happened is that when the state changed their classification system a couple years ago, it resulted in more minimum custody inmates than what we thought we would have. So when the blueprint was put together we thought we would have less low custody inmates to go to the fire camp. Today, we have more of those low custody inmates and we’re able to maintain and, in fact, today, we’re supposed to be at 2,500 at the fire camps and we actually have 3,750 in the fire camps. But again, these are not serious or violent offenders.

Question:
[Incomprehensible audio]

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
I think the statement that you’re referring to that is referring to out years, that if we relied on that going forward, say, for 5, 10 years that at some point we may run out of enough of the less serious offenders to keep the fire camps at that level. But within the next few years, we have plenty of the lower security inmates and then so that’s not a problem.

Question:
…If you’re saying the out year that’s not sustainable then this is a temporary fix it sounds like to try to show the court and everybody you’re serious.

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
I think that this is a sustainable fix. I’m not sure when that point comes that we might have to look at other offenders for the fire camp. It’s certainly not in the near-term. And we believe as we move forward some of the other things we have proposed will result in increased releases that will offset any need to reduce the fire camps.

Question:
…In terms of numbers, you said that it’s fallen short by about 2,500. Does that mean that the ultimate reduction would be about 7,000 as opposed to 9,500?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
You’re about right. It would be roughly 7,000 of the 9,300 inmates that we have to find something to do with are dealt with under the plan, which leads us just about 2,500 inmates short.

Question:
…1,600 leased beds in addition to the 1,200 you’re already out to bid?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Yeah, that would be in addition to the 1,200 beds. Yes. Those 1,200 beds they’re in CCFs not in county jails.

Question:
…And if you do seek further private in-state facilities, you said operated by the state, meaning union correctional?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
That’s correct.

Question:
…The plan that you’ve submitted comes close to what the court has asked you. Are these things you’re already going to do? Because someone out there will say or even the inmates’ attorneys, “Why didn’t you do this before? Why did the court have to push you to do this?” Did you already have all this planned?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
No, I think I said we – it’s not a good plan. The only thing that we had planned was to expand the fire camps when we saw we could do that and particularly because we have a bad fire season coming up here, and the only other thing that is in the plan that I didn’t specifically mention is opening the new health care facility at Stockton which will give us 1,700 extra beds by July of this year and then another 1,100 or 1,200 next year.

Question:
Why did it take the court threatening contempt to make this happen?

CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard:
Because we did not believe that we have to further reduce the population. We believe the population has been reduced sufficiently. We believe we can manage this population. I’ve been around and visited over 20 of the prisons. Actually, it’s about 27 or 28 of the prisons now. These prisons are running fine at the current capacity level. These prisons are providing a constitutional level of care and we don’t believe we have to do any more. And that’s why we have not submitted a plan before this. We’re only doing this under court order.

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3 Comments on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard on the state’s new plan to reduce prison population – May 3, 2013

  1. Dear Dr. Beard, can you please explain why my son, Paul Alexander V82874, in Mule Creek is being sent as a Level II Close Custody B 600 miles away from all of his support to Centinela which he will be a Level II Close Custody B also. He went in for his annual a week ago and they told him they have to fill up Centinela, he has never had one write up in 8 years, is well liked and working in your EOP helping and making this program a success. His father and I are almost 80 and we will never be able to make it way over there, why not leave him at Mule Creek for two years and when he drops his Close B then move him. This doesn’t make any finanicial sense either. Thank you….

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

  3. Pingback: Transcript: California Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard's remarks on the state's new plan to reduce prison population - May 3, 2013 | What The Folly?!

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