Judge Throws Out Schwarzenegger's Plan To Transfer Prison Inmates

Tuesday, February 20th 2007, 2:48 pm
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ A judge on Tuesday threw out Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plan to transfer thousands of inmates to other states to relieve prison overcrowding, ruling the transfers were illegal.

The governor in October ordered the corrections department to send thousands of inmates to private prisons in other states. Two employee unions, including the one representing guards, filed lawsuits alleging the order violated state law.

Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian agreed with the unions and threw out California's contracts with the other states.

``Prison overcrowding in California is a crisis creating conditions of extreme peril,'' Ohanesian wrote in her ruling. But ``this is not the type of circumstance generally covered'' by California law.

Schwarzenegger said he would immediately appeal, citing the potential for some convicts to be released early.

``Today's disappointing ruling is a threat to public safety,'' Schwarzenegger said in a statement. ``I will not release dangerous criminals to relieve overcrowding. The transfer of inmates is imperative to relieve the pressure on our overburdened prison system.''

The state's Emergency Services Act was not intended ``to give the governor extraordinary powers to act without legislative approval in matters such as this that are ordinarily and entirely within the control of the state government,'' the judge said.

The law was designed to let the state step in when local governments are overwhelmed and cannot be used to respond to problems that began at the state level, the judge said.