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California prison policies under legislative scrutiny

SACRAMENTO -- California lawmakers continued their review of the state's troubled prison system on Monday as Gov. Jerry Brown's administration received more time to negotiate ways to reduce overcrowding behind bars.

The state is under court order to reduce its prison population by thousands of inmates because a panel of three federal judges determined that overcrowding was preventing access to adequate medical care.

The deadline for cutting the prison population was delayed an additional 28 days on Monday, giving more time for administration officials to discuss a resolution with lawyers representing inmates.

Don Specter, a lawyer for inmates who has battled with the state for years, told lawmakers that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had failed to improve conditions behind bars. 

“Prisoners are getting injured and dying because of poor care," he said. “CDCR has never taken its obligation to provide basic healthcare seriously.”

Prison officials did not testify on Monday because of a scheduling conflict, according to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the corrections department.

This summer the federal judges said state prisons had 9,600 more inmates than allowable under their court order. On Monday, the Legislative Analyst's Office said there were 8,500 excess inmates. 

Another legislative hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13. A previous hearing focused on the use of isolation units.

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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