Transcript: Press conference Q&A on California prison reform compromise – Sept. 9, 2013
Partial transcript of press conference Q&A with Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.), Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), and Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) on reaching an agreement to amend SB 105, a prison reform legislation to comply with a federal court order to reduce California’s prison population to 137.5% of design capacity. The press conference was held on Sept. 9, 2013:
Question: Governor, is this an agreement between all of you for effectively a plan A and if not that, plan B?
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.): Yeah.
Question: Does it include the information about the inmates’ attorneys having a say in the –
Gov. Jerry Brown: No, the inmates’ attorneys do not have any role in this plan. This is a legislative plan. It seeks a court modification and if that occurs, the court will allow more individuals to remain in prison. With the money we save, we’ll invest in programs to reduce recidivism and to encourage local counties to develop alternative sanctions to handle felons at the local level without sending them to prison.
Question: Governor, do you have confidence that the courts will give you the extension that you’re asking for?
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.): I don’t know what they’ll do. But this legislation shows the state of California is 100% compliant with what the court ordered. But it also raises the opportunity that we can in the next few years find reforms and changes that will make our system more balanced, more cost effective, and more humane. We need some time. If the court doesn’t give us the time, then we will spend the hundreds of millions of dollars finding additional beds. We’d rather find a combination plan that would achieve, I think, what the courts would like to achieve, but that can’t be done by Dec. 31st. We do need more time.[Overlapping audio]
Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento): …I suppose as the person that has been the critic of the capacity-only plan, in terms of whether the court will grant the extension so that we can do something different that is more durable and sustainable, I am comfortable taking that risk because I recognize that the default position here again is the capacity plan that I have been critical of. But I’m willing to take that risk because I think the court – I don’t speak – no one could ever speak for a court or try to predict what a court will do – but everybody is interested in a longer-term solution and if they grant the extension, we have then the opportunity to do what’s in the alternative plan that what everyone agrees will be more durable and long-lasting.
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles): If I may, there’s two elements to a modification. One could be an extension and the other could be a reduction in the number of bodies they’re asking for us to find solutions for. So the courts have many ways to look at this. In any modification that they would give, it would free up resources from the amount that we have all agreed to to focus on recidivism reduction. But the notion here is we absolutely are in compliance with what the court has mandated, and we’ll do it in as cost effective and as thoughtful way as possible.
Question: How long of an extension are we talking about here?
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.): Well, as long as it’s – I mean, a substantial amount of time because the big point that gets missed here is prison reduction is not reduction into the universe. It’s reduction into counties. So this problem is half the state and its prison and parole system and half the counties and their jails and their probation and their mental health and their drug treatments. This is a complex system.
We have already enacted the most far-reaching prison reform in the history of America called “Realignment”. 43,000 fewer people are in prison. That’s huge. That’s monumental. And for the most part, people act as though it never happened. Well, it did happen and we can build on that but not in a month or a year.
We’re asking for time and we will comply with the orders but in order to go forward in a balanced, humane, cost-effective way, we need time and we have a mechanism in this bill to spend the money giving the counties incentives and also providing for recidivism reduction.
Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento): I’m not going to – you need to ask Mr. [Clark] Kelso himself. But again, everybody who’s been party to 10 years worth of litigation and all that goes with it wants to see a longer term, cost effective solution. So you should ask him.
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles): And I think the Governor’s very clear: When you look at what we’ve done over the last several years, had we not made the changes that we have together, the problem would be five times as large as it is then. We have achieved 80% of what the court would have wanted. We think that they evaluate the work that we’ve done, they would have room to modify and allow us to do this in a more cost effective and timely way.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.): I think we have a reasonable chance. Just put it that way. We’re not acting just with no foundation. This has been well-considered, well-consulted, and well-drafted.
Question: [Overlapping audio]
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles): …The other part of this is if they don’t reconsider, we have a plan that we have all agreed to, which immediately moves forward on a housing-only approach. It is completely consistent with the court order. So the impetus for the court to act is to see whether or not the housing-only approach is the most desirable outcome or whether they’re open to looking at other thoughtful approaches.
Question: Have you gotten a signal from the court or through Mr. Kelso, Governor, to make you feel that optimistic?
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.): Well, there are little smoke signals emanating from the mountain tops.
- gov.ca.gov: Governor, legislative leaders reach agreement on prison plan – Sept. 11, 2013
- gov.ca.gov: Audio recording of press conference on Sept. 11, 2013 (MP3)
- gov.ca.gov: Revised SB 105 – Sept. 11, 2013 (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: Spotlight: California Prison Capacity Expansion
Category: Criminal Justice, Current Events, Government, Human Rights, Local, Social Services, State, Tax Dollars at Work, Transcripts, U.S. · Tags: Brown vs. Plata, California, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, CDCR, Coleman v. Brown, Darrell Steinberg, federal court, Gov. Jerry Brown, inmate release, inmates, Jerry Brown, John Perez, medical care, mental health, oversight, prison, prison overcrowding, prison population, prisoners, state budget, state prison, U.S., United States, US Constitution