Potential gubernatorial candidate Abel Maldonado blasted Gov. Jerry Brown over the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal Friday to block an order for the release of state prison inmates, saying that if Brown had moved to build new prisons, the point would be moot.
“I would have demonstrated to the courts that I was moving forward with increasing capacity to hold some hardened criminals in California. This governor has decided not to do that, and now he’s got to release 10,000 more inmates,” said Maldonado, a Republican and the state’s former lieutenant governor.
“If I was the governor today, I would rather be held in contempt of court and sit in a jail cell myself than let 10,000 hardened criminals out of prison,” Maldonado said. “Crime is going to continue to rise because criminals are going to be let out, and they’re going to come to our neighborhoods.”
Maldonado was reacting to the court’s rejection of Brown’s request to lift a federal order giving the state five months to reduce prison crowding. The order, which the state has appealed, requires the Brown administration to remove 9,600 prisoners from state lockups by the end of the year.
Brown and state lawmakers have already reduced the prison population by keeping some nonviolent offenders in local jails rather than sending them to state lockups, a policy known as realignment. Attacking realignment has been the centerpiece of Maldonado’s criticism of Brown.
Attempts to reach Brown’s political spokesman were unsuccessful.
A spokesman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the state has no plans to release thousands of inmates.
“We have no intention of doing that,” said spokesman Jeffrey Callison. “We will do everything in our power to avoid doing that.”
In addition to continuing to appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, Callison said, the state is working hard on finding alternatives to releasing thousands of inmates. The state plans to maximize the use of out-of-state prisons and California fire camps and is considering leasing beds in county jails and in private detention facilities within the state, he said.
“It’s premature for anyone to be saying what exactly is going to come of this,” Callison said.