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Runner, Smyth Intervene On Prison Overcrowding Issue

Both object to early release of prisoners.
ImageJudges from the California Supreme Court could start weighing in on California’s prison overcrowding issues in November, if state officials and lawyers can’t come up with a solution.

The issue stems from several law suits against the state, accusing them of not being able to provide constitutionally required levels of health and mental care in the prisons due to severe overcrowding. Our prisons currently are holding nearly double the capacity they were designed for. 

The court appointed Elwood Lui as a referee, and he announced a plan that would gradually shave the prison population by 38,000 inmates over the course of the next three to four years. According to Lui, this would be accomplished not by

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releasing prisoners early, rather diverting certain criminals to rehabilitation programs and making more prisoners eligible for sentence-reducing programs while incarcerated.

The problem irking some lawmakers, including our State Senator George Runner and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, is that if the prison population reductions are not met by Lui’s plan, then it would call for inmates to be released prior to serving their full sentences.

“For many of us, the number one responsibility of government is public safety,” Runner told KHTS in a live interview.

ImageThe solution, according to Runner, is to accommodate the existing population. “The best way for us to deal with this issue is indeed to build additional facilities, not to let prisoners out of prison,” he said. 

He pointed to a bill supported last year, AB 900. In that bill 30,000 new prison beds were approved for construction, however that bill has yet to be implemented due to certain corrections that need to be made.

In the meantime, the overcrowding issue has continued to take over California politics. All sides of this issue are still debating how to correct the problem, with neither side fully embracing Lui’s plan. The negotiations will continue, and if no conclusion is found, then the California Supreme Court may step in. Whatever the solution may be, it is likely that it will further burden a budget already $15 billion dollars overextended.