Transcript: Press conference remarks by Gov. Jerry Brown on prison reform compromise – Sept. 9, 2013

Partial transcript of press conference remarks by Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.), Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) 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:

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.):

Look, this is an unusual occasion because we have the leaders of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party and we’re standing in support of an amended bill that as it go forward will definitely comply with the court’s order regarding our prisons but will do so opening up the possibility for a longer term plan that will be more efficient and more balanced. But in the short-term, we will comply with the court’s order by providing adequate capacity.

But we’re asking the court that they recognize our commitment to longer term solutions and to consider modifying their order…

California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento):

…I’m very happy to be standing with my fellow leaders here and, of course, the Governor of the state of California. I wasn’t sure this would happen a couple of weeks ago but I’m pleased that it has.

The statute – the amended statute – that we all support will contain, again, no early releases. Very important component.

The plan essentially is this: It says that the capacity only approach is the default approach. It’s the default approach. That if the court does not issue a modified order that the capacity plan will go into effect. So there’s insurance here against early release.

However, we stand jointly together – and the leaders can put it all in their own words – about asking the court to modify its order to allow the state of California to invest in a more durable and sustainable solution to our overcrowding problem.

And so the statute will have two plans. It will have the Governor’s original capacity plan and it will have an alternative. The alternative plan will go into effect if the court grants us an extension of time.

And if the court grants that extension of time, because we don’t know how long that extension might be, we don’t specify then how much money will be for capacity or rehabilitation.

But the statute will say that the administration and we – together – can only spend money on capacity to the extent required by an amended court order. Any savings – the first $75 million – will go into a rehabilitation/recidivism reduction fund, a rehabilitation savings fund. And any savings over $75 million will go 50-50 into that same fund and or the general fund. This will be in addition – in addition to a county incentive fund modeled after 678 of 2009 that in year 2 will grant county monies directly – and the money will be paid for by reducing capacity – for counties that are able to divert people from state prison.

So we all stand four square, I believe, behind the alternative but we have the insurance that if the court does not modify the order, that we are protected, the public is protected, and we go with the original plans.

California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles):

Again, it’s wonderful that we’re all here together on a bicameral and bipartisan basis to move forward with this legislation.

As the Governor and Pro Tem have stated, it is modeled first and foremost on the Governor’s proposal to avoid any release of prisoners and to fully comply with the court orders.

We then modified that, as the Pro Tem has said, to create opportunities for us to address any changes in the court order. The Pro Tem referred to a possibility that the court could extend the amount of time.

The court could also do what we think they should have been doing, which is look at the conditions in prisons today, evaluate the changes that have happened because of the work we have all done together over the last several years – eliminating triple bunking, eliminating the number of folks housed in gymnasiums and others – and really evaluate whether their original number was correct.

Any reduction in that number, just like any extension of time, would free up resources for our investment in programs to decrease recidivism and work with local governments to have other alternatives.

The notion here is that we’re constrained by the amount of money that was originally outlined in the Governor’s proposal – $315 million in the first year; $415 million in the out-year.

But all of us believe that if the court is thoughtful and re-evaluates their original order, there is a way to do all that we’re talking about for less money than originally outlined in the Governor’s proposal.

Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar):

…You know, Senate Republicans have consistently opposed the early release of criminals. And so this plan respects that and it has capacity that as a back-stop, nobody lets out early. Every felon, every inmate that wants to improve themselves, should the judges reverse their or modify their opinion, every inmate has the ability – that wants to rehabilitate themselves should have that opportunity. So I just want to say I appreciate working together with my colleagues here as we stand united in this approach, and we know California will be better for it. Thank you very much.

Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare):

I guess this is historic. We’re having a big five meeting. And I will not repeat what everyone’s already said but the obvious is that we have the Governor’s original plan that responds to the immediacy of the situation. We worked together to create an alternative plan and I think everything continues as it has before. So we have a short-term plan that we have to immediately react to the court’s decision. The court has an opportunity to change that. Should they choose to, then we have an alternative plan that going forward meets all the needs. For us, of course, I think it’s already been stated, not allowing anyone else out on the streets is very, very important to all of our constituents. I think we’ve heard that loud and clear on both sides of the aisle.

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