Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) says, "There's no question that there were big problems in California prisons. Overcrowding, lack of health care, lack of mental health care and lots of other problems."
Governor Brown now says the problems once plaguing California prisons, are gone.
"California is a powerful state. We can run our own prisons and by God, let those judges give us our prisons back. We can run them right," says Brown.
The governor is challenging a federal prison population cap, ordered by the courts in 2009. It was put into place to address a lack of medical care for inmates. Part of the problem was overcrowding, but Brown says the state has done its job. More than 43,000 inmates have been released from prisons since 2006.
Brown says, "Our system is meeting the highest standards of health care and mental health care, and for that reason there's no justification for the federal court to say you can only hold a certain number of people in the prisons."
But not everyone agrees with the governor. According to groups like the Coaliton for Women Prisoners, conditions are still not up to par. Inmate advocates point to the women's facility in Chowchilla. It's the most crowded prison in the state, at more than 180% designed capacity.
Prison officials say the facility is not overcrowded.
Spokesperson Dana Simas says, "We can operate and provide healthcare at the current capacity that we're at, so that 137.5% no longer needs to be met."
All low level offenders have already been re-located to county jails. Brown and his supporters say releasing any more would be bad for counties and public safety.
"The ones that are currently in state prisons are the most serious and violent. We need to house the inmates in state prison. This is where they belong," says Simas.
Under the current cap, the state has until June 26th to reduce populations in prisons to 137.5% of designed capacity. Brown says he hopes the court will lift the cap. If not, he says the state will appeal, because it has already poured billions of dollars into the system.
The California Coalition for Women Prisoners will be protesting the overcrowding conditions at the Chowchilla prison. That will take place at 3 p.m. January 26th in front of the prison.