Plan to Free 27K Inmates Threatens Calif. Budget Deal

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2009 6:35 AM CDT
Several hundred inmates crowd the gymnasium at San Quentin prison in San Quentin, Calif. Some 27,000 of California's 168,000 may be released as part of the state's budget deal.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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(Newser) – A plan to slash the number of inmates by 27,000 could sink California's long-delayed budget deal, the Los Angeles Times reports. Angry Republican state lawmakers threatened to back out of the agreement after learning of the plan, which would give prison officials authority to let any inmate over 60 years old or with less than a year left on their sentences finish their time on home detention to save money.

The state's Democrats have double-crossed GOP lawmakers with a bill "that includes the worst of the worst—a sentencing commission and release of 27,000 prisoners, " the state assembly's Republican leader fumed in an email to colleagues. The deal could go to a vote in the state legislature as soon as tomorrow. Leaders are still cautiously optimistic they will get the necessary two-thirds vote in each house, despite strong opposition to various clauses from the left, right, and middle.