SACRAMENTO — In a direct slap to Gov. Jerry Brown, his fellow Democrats in the state Senate on Wednesday rejected his plan for dealing with California’s prison crisis, throwing the state’s response to a federal court order into chaos.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Brown’s proposal to move inmates to private prisons and vacant county jail cells was essentially dead on arrival and that his chamber would not pass it. “We oppose the governor’s plan,” Steinberg told a Capitol news conference. “We think it is, as the governor himself said ... It’s throwing money down a rat hole.”
The comment was an apparent reference to a statement by Brown in January that he opposed pouring “more and more money down the rat hole of incarceration,” arguing that funds were needed elsewhere. On Wednesday, Brown quickly dismissed Steinberg’s alternative of seeking an extension from the court, creating a stalemate that leaves the state with no clear path just weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year.
A day earlier, Brown presented his plan for addressing the federal court order that says the state must lower its prison population by an additional 9,600 inmates by the end of the year. Judges have determined that a lower prison population is the best way to improve inmate medical and mental health care, which is at the heart of a long-running legal battle.