SACRAMENTO (CN) – Arnold Schwarzenegger did not overstep his authority as California governor when he declared a state of emergency over prison overcrowding, a California appeals court ruled.
The governor announced that the inmate population had reached 166,148, and overcrowding increased the risk of violence, power failures, sewer spills and environmental contamination.
Because the Legislature would not act on his requests to deal with prison overcrowding, the governor declared a state of emergency.
Justice Scotland overturned the trial court’s decision that Schwarzenegger had gone too far in his steps to alleviate the problem. The trial court had ruled that the overcrowding was a state problem that did not require the intervention of a combination of local governments.
Scotland countered with the following example:
“If a fire is raging out of control at a state park,” Scotland wrote, “the governor is not precluded from proclaiming a state of emergency” because the park is on state and not local land.
Scotland also ruled that the contracts with the out-of-state prisons did not violate the constitution, because it would take five years to train the correctional officers to fill the current staffing shortage.
“Given the state of emergency, five years is too long,” Scotland wrote.