Transcript: CA Gov. Jerry Brown announces $315 million plan to expand prison capacity

Partial transcript of remarks by Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) on expanding prison capacity to comply with the federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding. The press conference was held on Aug. 27, 2013:

Thank you. We’re here this afternoon to discuss legislation to protect public safety by preventing the early releases of several thousand inmates and also to commit ourselves to working on thoughtful changes over the long-term.

What we face in California is not just a matter of what’s going on in the prisons but an entire criminal justice system – local jails, local drug treatment, local mental health, mental hospitals as well as our state prisons, parole and probation. All these elements have to be taken into consideration anytime we make some changes.

We’re now under a court order to release thousands of people to meet an arbitrary capacity figure that we don’t agree with but that the court is very sincerely committed to.

So based on that, working with all the different stakeholders, I’ve come up with a plan that in the short-term meets the capacity but not by letting thousands of people out but by finding additional places for incarceration both in-state and out-of-state.

And then secondly, we’re going to work on longer term potential changes.

And I say longer term for a very important reason. The criminal justice system doesn’t belong to the governor or the legislature or any one individual or interest group.

It really is a system with many, many elements and the people behind me represent that criminal justice system.

Anytime you made big dramatic changes, these are the people that have to carry it out.

Many of them are laboring under the Realignment program and saying, “Hey, wait a minute – we ought to be doing this or be doing that a little differently.”

So to add another many thousands on top of that is not wise, is not prudent, is not consistent with public safety or the orderly administration of justice.

So that is the reason why we’re here. That is the reason why legislation is being introduced to handle the problem, which the courts have – shall I say – given to us or we face in collaboration with them.

And we are sincerely committed to providing a decent health care, decent prison conditions in a capacity that we think makes sense and ultimately the Supreme Court will approve.

In order to be able to do that – and not just quickly respond in a few months – we have the plan that I’m laying out for you now.

Just summarizing all this:

45,000 fewer people are in California state prisons today than were there in 2006.

25,000 fewer than just two years ago.

The people standing behind me are those that are committed and sworn to protect the people of California.

There are a number of good ideas. There are a number of longer term solutions. But no solution will work over the long-term if these ladies and gentlemen are not part of the solution. That takes time.

We’re talking not just about how many people are in the prison but how many people can be convinced not to commit crimes that get them to come back.

Often, people will say, “Okay, let out 5,000 or 7,000.” That’s one thing. But what happens when those 7,000 or 7,000 like them do things that the community says, “Take them out of my neighborhood. I want them locked up”? Does that go into the county? Does that go into local drug treatment? Is it going to some mental health program? That all cost money. That all takes personnel. And the system is under a fair amount of stress, depending upon which county you’re in.

So this is the sensible, prudent way to proceed to comply with the court order, to involve both Republicans and Democrats, and be in a position – at least from my judgment – to protect Realignment by making the state-local relationship work in the best possible way.


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