Friday, December 22, 2006 Sentencing review proposed Schwarzenegger proposes a 17-member commission as part of his strategy to reform the California prison system.
The Associated Press SACRAMENTO � Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that he will seek a review of California's prison sentencing guidelines, a politically risky undertaking that is part of a wide-ranging plan to address the state's burgeoning prison crisis.
The governor also is proposing an $11 billion building program to add space for thousands of additional inmates and changes to the state parole system.
Schwarzenegger characterized the state's prisons as in crisis and "in deep need of reform."
"My administration inherited a system that was dangerously overcrowded, poorly managed and out of control," he said during a Capitol news conference to release his plan. "Now we are at the point where if we don't clean up the mess, the federal court is going to do the job for us. As governor, I cannot let that happen."
His proposals come as pressure is mounting on the administration to fix a system widely seen as dysfunctional and dangerous to both inmates and guards.
Federal courts have taken authority over many aspects of prison operations, from inmate health care to treatment of the mentally ill. Judges have threatened to reach into the state treasury if lawmakers fail to fix the problems.
Last week, a federal judge gave the administration a June deadline to ease crowding that is aggravating violence, suicides and poor inmate health care. If it fails to meet it, the courts could order inmates to be released early or cap the prison population.
Schwarzenegger proposed a 17-member commission that would include four legislators, the attorney general, the corrections secretary, a judge and representatives of law enforcement and crime victims' groups. They would serve four-year terms.
Commissioners would spend their first year examining whether California's mandatory three-year parole period could be safely shortened for some ex-convicts.
The prison system is designed for about 100,000 inmates but houses 174,000. Many convicts are being held longer at county jails, overwhelming that system as well.