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Calif District Attorneys Join to Stop Early Prison Release

Fifteen district attorneys in California, including San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, have gone to court seeking to stop a three-judge panel from making decisions that could lead to the early release of some prisoners because of overcrowding.

In documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco urged the special panel to consider the adverse impact such an order would have on public safety.

He asked the judges to refrain from any release decisions until a $7.8 billion bond for 53,000 new prison and jail beds "has been fully implemented and its efficacy can be fully and fairly assessed."

"My immediate concerns are that the people we sent to prison will be released back to Riverside County," Pacheco said. "They were sent to prison because they were violent, and can jeopardize the lives of the men, women and children of the community."

The district attorneys' motion seeks to intervene in a federal class action lawsuit filed by inmates Ralph Coleman and Marciano Plata against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state.

The lawsuit led to the appointment of the three-judge panel, which was formed last month to examine how overcrowding is affecting inmate health care, mental health, services for the disabled and other prison operations.

Among the possible remedies are a cap of California's inmate population and early release of some prisoners. The panel has not set a deadline for when it will decide the issues, but Tuesday was the last day to seek intervention in the case.

Besides Riverside, the 14 district attorney offices that joined in the case were: San Diego, Santa Barbara, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Placer, Colusa, Amador, Contra Costa, Solano, Tehama, Butte, Kern and San Luis Obispo counties.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, said his office supports the attorneys' position, but was not included in the motion because of late notification from the California District Attorneys Association, of which he is not a member.

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