SACRAMENTO — Four former California governors on Monday supported a request by Gov. Jerry Brown to delay the release of nearly 10,000 prison inmates by year’s end. They sent their request to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees appeals from Western states.
Republicans Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian and Arnold Schwarzenegger were joined by Democrat Gray Davis in the friend-of-the-court brief, which said freeing more inmates “threatens the people of California with grave and irreparable harm from increased crime.”
They want Kennedy to halt the releases until the justices can consider the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling. The lower court said reducing the inmate population further is necessary to improve prison medical and mental health care.
The 12-page brief was filed through the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which generally supports victims’ rights.
Preliminary statistics show an uptick in crime last year after the state began sentencing thousands of inmates to county jails to reduce crowding in state prisons. The brief acknowledges that it is unclear whether the state’s criminal justice realignment is to blame.
“If the reductions made already are a substantial cause of this spike, as is entirely possible, then further releases of even more dangerous inmates will cause additional and irreparable harm,” the former governors say in their brief.
It also argues that an early release of certain prison inmates conflicts with a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008 to ensure the rights of crime victims. California should be free to decide how long to incarcerate felons without interference by the federal courts, the petition says.
The California Association of Counties and Chief Probation Officers of California filed their own brief in support of a delay, arguing that the shift of thousands of inmates to local jurisdictions “had a profound effect on California counties.” Releasing another nearly 10,000 higher-risk inmates “adds potentially unmanageable pressures on a system that is already difficult to manage,” the counties contend.