Quick, jot down the following numbers: 167,000... $1.2 billion... $3 million... 4%... 37%... 2.4. They're going to come in handy when lawmakers soon wrap themselves in a one of the most complicated and controversial areas of public policy: prisons.
The return of the Legislature next week will feature an intense debate on not just how to reduce prison overcrowding in response to the recent ruling by federal judges, but also on how to save cut prison spending as part of the state's budget crisis. A lot. And fast.
The federal judge who took control of California prison health care some three years ago rejected a request today to scrap the court-appointed receivership.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson denied a petition from Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to replace the receivership with the more limited powers of a special master.
It may not be the next step in the process, but you could place a safe bet that the wheels are now in motion for the state of California to ultimately ask the Supreme Court of the United States to stop a federal court from ordering a major release of inmates from the state's prisons.
This afternoon, a panel of three federal judges issued a tentative ruling that orders California to release tens of thousands of prisoners to relieve overcrowding conditions inside the state's 37 prisons.
Saying he and the governor "strongly disagree with the ruling," corrections secretary Matt Cate told reporters this afternoon the state will take its case to the nation's highest court, if needed.
The ruling "would result in the release of between 37,000 and 58,000 inmates onto the California streets," said Cate. "We believe it poses a significant threat to public safety." Prison officials put the current total prison population at about 170,000.
The timing, while undoubtedly coincidental, can't help but be noticed in light of budget negotiations. Talks to resolve a $40 billion deficit are still ongoing, but are believed to be coming to a close.
One wonders how this news might add to the sense that California is tumbling over the cliff... and therefore help instill a sense of urgency in lawmakers and Governor Schwarzenegger.
Governor Schwarzenegger's top prison adviser is leaving his job, to be replaced by the current inspector general of the state's prison system.
Jim Tilton has served as secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation since 2006 -- the third top prison official to serve under Schwarzenegger in the last five years.
This morning's announcement comes on the heels of yesterday's news by the court-appointed receiver for prison health care that another $7 billion is needed to bring the California prison medical system up to snuff.
Tilton will be replaced by Matthew Cate, who has been inspector general of the state's prisons since 2004 and was previously a deputy state attorney general.