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 inmates to private prisons and empty county jail cells.
The cost could reach $700 million over two years, with much of the money likely to come from a $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 released some 46,000 inmates to comply with the court's orders and said only the most dangerous felons remain in state prison.
Sending them to available cells in privately run prisons within California and in other states, as well as to empty jail cells, was the best way to meet the court's mandate without endangering public safety, he said.
The court has found that lowering the inmate population is the best way to improve medical and mental health treatment within the prison system.
Yet releasing thousands of additional inmates is not wise, the governor said.
"It's not prudent. It's not consistent with public safety or the orderly administration of justice," he said.