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New Chapter Begins in California Prisons Legal Saga

Aired 10/21/13 on KPBS News.

Monday is the end of the negotiation period between the two sides in the legal challenge to California’s prison system.

Monday marks a new chapter in the legal challenge to California's prison system. It's the deadline for a court-appointed facilitator to report to the three federal judges overseeing the case on how negotiations between the state and inmate attorneys have progressed.

The three-judge panel has ordered the two sides to "meet and confer" in hopes of working out a way to reduce California's prison population without sending inmates out of state.

Plaintiffs have long argued the state could easily meet the court-ordered population cap by releasing low-risk prisoners — and the judges have indicated they agree. But Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders said that would severely hurt public safety. They're hoping the judges will instead give the state more time to implement mental health and rehabilitation programs.

The judges are expected to weigh in soon after hearing the facilitator's report. They could give the state more time to implement recidivism programs; they could keep the January deadline and let California send prisoners out of state; or they could keep the January deadline but block out-of-state transfers, essentially forcing the state to release prisoners.

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