A special three-judge federal court on June 20, 2013 ordered the State of California implement its own plan to reduce the state’s prison population from 150 percent of design capacity to 137.5 percent by the end of 2013. The court said that it found merit in plaintiffs’ motion to hold the Governor in contempt of court for not obeying previous court orders, but deferred ruling on the motion to give the state an opportunity to comply. In 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court found that prison overcrowding in California prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment with prisoners lacking access to adequate health and mental health care.
RBBG’s Michael Bien, co-lead counsel was quoted in several news sources about today’s decision.
According to coverage in the Sacramento Bee, “Michael Bien, lead counsel for the inmates, said Thursday’s order vindicates an effort that began in the 1980s and has been a constant source of bitter dispute in the courts and the Legislature. ‘We strongly support the necessity of complying with the orders of the U.S. Supreme Court and the three-judge court,’ Bien said. ‘It is the only way the state can start remedying unconstitutional health care in its prisons.’
Bien added that concerns about a release of prisoners compromising public safety are unfounded and that the state knows it. ‘The public need not be concerned,’ he said. ‘Further release of inmates can be done safely and appropriately. This administration knows how to identify prisoners that can safely be released. . . . The assessments on those still incarcerated have already been done. It’s a win, win, win situation. The state saves money on prisons, it identifies people who are ready to re-enter society, and the inmates have the opportunity to become good, productive citizens.'”
And Bien was quoted in a Capital Public Radio story: “There was a trial. They lost. They appealed to the Supreme Court. They lost again. It’s time to comply with the order.”