The court’s denial highlighted tensions between the most populous
U.S. state and federal courts about crowding and conditions in
California's troubled prison system.
The state has been under court orders to reduce its prison
population since 2009 and has sought to comply partly by funneling
some non-violent offenders to county jurisdiction.
In 2012, a U.S. District Court judge ordered state officials to
notify the counties when inmates have disabilities entitling them to
accommodations under federal law while in jail. The state must also
take complaints from prisoners who say they are not getting
assistance they need.
“They were essentially refusing to pass that on to counties,” said
Lisa Ells, part of the legal team representing disabled inmates. “So
the counties would receive an inmate and have no idea if that person
In her 2012 order, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken required the
state to track the roughly 2,000 disabled inmates in its custody and
report to county jails when someone was transferred to county
jurisdiction who was entitled to accommodations under the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
Those accommodations can include wheelchairs, tapping canes for the
blind or accessible beds and toilets. Once the state makes the
county aware of an inmate’s needs, it is the county’s legal
obligation to provide the necessary accommodations.
After the order was issued, the state complied, but also submitted a
series of appeals aimed at overturning the requirement.
[to top of second column]
In court documents, California Governor Jerry Brown argued that the
larger issue was whether the federal government had the right to
tell the state which roles it should assign to local governments.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the order in 2013,
saying that shuffling inmates to county jails did not exempt the
state from its responsibility to ensure they receive disability
accommodations. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to
Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation, said on Monday the state would
continue to provide the information to the counties.
(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee in Berkeley, Calif.; Editing by
Sharon Bernstein and Peter Cooney)
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