An order is pending from a special three-judge U.S. District Court panel calling for the release of 9,600 California inmates by the end of the year, as part of the state's overcrowding issue. Governor Jerry Brown isn't trying to hear it.
California was ordered two years ago by the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, to reduce its prison population by 137 percent of capacity within two years. So far, 37,000 have been let out but California needs to release 9,600 more to comply with the court mandate.
The deciding Justice, Anthony Kennedy, said then that "if significant progress is made toward remedying the underlying constitutional violations," that could "demonstrate that further population reductions are not necessary." That's Brown's reasoning for his request for Kennedy to block these releases.
But even with the recent population decrease, state penal institutions are operating at 150 percent of their design capacity.
The decision is going to come down to the California native Kennedy, which would likely result in releasing more prisoners. There are concerns about releasing violent offenders into society, but lawsuits challenging the prison overcrowding go back more than 20 years as the prison population continues to get older.