California governor candidates split on prison overcrowding solution

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't done battling federal judges over plans to relieve California prison overcrowding.

But as Schwarzenegger's last year in office approaches, much of the burden for cutting state inmate numbers will fall to the chief executive who follows him.

Schwarzenegger filed a plan last week to ease overcrowding that falls well short of a demand by a three-judge panel that he reduce the population by 40,000 inmates within two years.

That means the four declared gubernatorial candidates as well as Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is widely expected to run, face questions about how they would act to fix what everyone acknowledges is a broken state corrections system.

In conversations with The Bee, they've laid out two distinct visions:

Two of the Republican candidates, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, have rejected proposals that would let inmates out early or keep some parole violators out of prison. The two have also called for building more prisons to relieve overcrowding and sending inmates to other states with surplus bed space.

On the other side are Democrat Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, and Republican Tom Campbell, a former congressman, both of whom support reworking prison and parole guidelines to divert more inmates into parole and keeping some parole violators out of prison.

Brown, in interviews with The Bee, declined to comment on specific reform proposals, saying that as attorney general he has to enforce whatever proposals become law.

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