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Judges Make Decision Which Could Release One-Third of the State Prison Population

San Bernardino County Budget Woes

March 1, 2009 Date For $10,000 Tax Credit Eligibility

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Jeanna Pomierski,
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Annette Taylor,
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Christy Ray,
Office Assistant
March 2009

Judges Make Decision Which Could Release One-Third of the State Prison Population

Click the following link to view Supervisor Ovitt's Video:

A panel of three federal judges, saying overcrowding in state prisons has deprived inmates of their right to adequate healthcare, tentatively ruled February 10, 2009 that the state must reduce the population in those lockups by as many as 57,000 people.

Although their order is not final, U.S. District Court Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt effectively told the state that it had lost the trial and would have to make dramatic changes in its prisons unless it could reach a settlement with inmates' lawyers. The three judges are considered the most liberal judges in the Federal Ninth District U.S. Court of Appeals.

State officials immediately said they would appeal. If the state is ordered to reduce the prison population, it would likely be able to do so over two or three years, so it would not have to release large numbers of inmates at once. Some methods of cutting the population include limiting new admissions, changing policies so parole violators return to prison less frequently, and giving prisoners more time off of their sentences for good behavior and rehabilitation efforts.

The state's 33 prisons were designed for 84,000 inmates, and they now hold 158,000, nearly double their designed capacity. The rest of the 170,000 in the correctional system are in out-of-state prisons and other facilities. The judges found that when inmates are crammed into institutions, they could not receive the care to which they are entitled under the U.S. Constitution.

They said that triple-bunking of inmates in prison gymnasiums has increased the risk of infectious disease and that a shortage of doctors, nurses and correctional officers has denied inmates access to treatment and a decent system to keep their medical records in order.

In the ruling, the judges said they believe the state's prisons can safely operate at 120% to 145% of their designed capacity. Based on the current prison population, that would mean a potential reduction of 36,000 to 57,000 inmates. The judges reserved the right to change their numbers and did not say when their final order might come.

Under federal law, judges cannot order the state to lock up fewer prisoners if such a move would endanger the public, and the panel said that would not be the case if reductions were done gradually.

Even Attorney General Jerry Brown, hardly a paragon of conservative ideology or philosophy, called the ruling “the latest intrusion” on California’s prison system by the federal courts. He further labeled the order “a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed.”

San Bernardino County Budget Woes

San Bernardino County is facing the same financial struggle as many Inland households: bigger bills and less cash coming in.

The county's solution also will be similar -- deciding what to do without. The crucial difference is scale. The county must plug shortfalls for this fiscal year and the next that total about $140 million.

The Board of Supervisors began making changes to the budget in February that will mean 8 percent cuts for most departments and furloughs for county employees. Departments in the Law and Justice Group, including the county sheriff, and in Human Services are exempted from the reductions.

County employees will work four hours less per pay period in the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins in July. The reduced workweek would equal about 13 unpaid days a year. It's either that or it's going to be layoffs. Our employees would much prefer furloughs.

Our primary goal is to avoid layoffs. But given the severity of the economic crisis, nothing can be ruled out. Everything is on the table for discussion but no decisions have been made. County analysts have recommended the cuts based on the bleak economic forecast for the next couple of years. Officials also are predicting increases in costs over the next five fiscal years.

We have to be fiscally solvent. That may require making tough decisions. We will do our utmost to spread the pain if that occurs.

March 1, 2009 Date For $10,000 Tax Credit Eligibility

A $10,000 state tax credit for new-home buyers in California will begin for people who close escrow on or after March 1, the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) announced in late February. The date sold is the date of the close of escrow. The FTB has posted tax credit details and procedures at a special section of its Web site, www.ftb.ca.gov.

The website contains a purchase certificate for sellers to use and download. There are instructions on how to submit it, and procedures on how the FTB will acknowledge it. The site will also precisely defines eligibility.

The $100 million tax credit allocation could accommodate up to 10,000 home purchases and is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The tax credit gives buyers who close escrow on or after March 1 and up to March 1, 2010, up to $3,333 off their taxes for each of the first three years after buying. First-time and move-up buyers alike are eligible and there are no income limits.