Photo courtesy Rich Pedroncelli for
the San Francisco Chronicle.

The new gubernatorial plan to solve the prison crisis Jerry Brown says we don’t have has just been announced: Spending $315 million on private prisons.

No, I am not making this up. The Chron reports:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday responded to a federal court order to significantly reduce California’s prison population by proposing a $315 million plan to send thousands of inmates to private prisons and vacant county jail cells, hoping to avoid what he said would be a mass release of dangerous felons.

The cost could reach $700 million over two years, with much of the money likely to come from a $1.1 billion reserve fund in the state budget.

During a news conference at the Capitol, Brown bristled at the court’s suggestion that the state could continue its early release of certain inmates to meet the federal judges’ population cap. He noted that California has already reduced the prison population by some 46,000 inmates to comply with the court’s orders and said only the most dangerous convicts remain in state prison.

The judges have ordered the state to release an additional 9,600 inmates by the end of the year.

Brown, however, said sending them to available cells in privately run prisons within California and in other states, as well as to empty jail cells, is the best way to meet the court’s mandate without endangering public safety.

“Public safety is the priority, and we’ll take care of it,” the governor said. “The money is there.”

Governor Brown, what on Earth were you thinking when you concocted this wasteful, ridiculous, idiotic plan? What do you mean, “the money is there”? California is in a state of fiscal disaster, and suddenly we have $315 million to invest in private prisons? And where was all this mysterious money when federal courts asked you why we pack people up like sardines and let them languish in their own feces without appropriate health care? Moreover, how will this lucrative investment manifest itself? Will Correctional Corporation of America and Geo build prisons on Californian soil? Or will we send more inmates than the 9,000 we currently have out of state to Arizona and Tennessee? How are you squaring this off with your traditional allies at the CCPOA? Are you going to put state guards in private prisons to make sure their interests are served, as well? After all the effort we put into realignment–and after countless experts have made reasonable suggestions to keep jail population law by not locking up people who should not be locked up in the first place–this is what it’s coming to? After expert witnesses agreed that decrowding prisons is not a danger to public safety, where does your information to the contrary come from? Can you find a decent, respectable criminal justice scholar in the entire state of California that thinks this is necessary? Are you trying to divert our attention from the fact that this is Day 51 of a hunger strike against the horrific conditions under which you hold inmates in solitary confinement? What the hell is going on?

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