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Assembly Passes Bill To Avoid Early Inmate Release

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Assembly on Wednesday approved a compromise plan to deal with California’s prison crisis by passing a bill asking federal judges to extend the deadline for releasing thousands of inmates.

The proposal includes Gov. Jerry Brown’s original plan to lease cells in private prisons and county jails if the court sticks to its year-end deadline for reducing the prison population by about 9,600 inmates.

If the judges grant the extension, part of the $315 million that would be spent to rent cells in private prisons and county jails will go instead to pay for rehabilitation programs.

SB105 cleared the Assembly on a 75-0 vote Wednesday and heads to the Senate. Approval is expected because the bill has the support of Democrats, Republicans and the governor.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, says the judges will opt to revise their order if they are honest in their assessment of improvements the state has already made to the prison system. He expressed frustration with the court order, saying the decision about how to make further population reductions was “foisted upon” lawmakers by the judges.

The legislation “gives the courts an ability to re-evaluate what many of us believe was a wrong-headed order in the first place,” Perez said.

Legislative leaders agreed on the compromise plan earlier this week after the Senate’s top Democrat had opposed the governor’s plan, which relied primarily on shipping inmates to private prisons and counties that had available jail space.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, wanted to ask the judges to delay the inmate-release deadline and spend $200 million on drug, mental health and other rehabilitation programs. He said such programs would reduce the number of parolees who re-offend and end up back in state prison.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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