Federal judges on Monday gave California an additional month to reduce its prison population, as negotiations continue over a longer-term delay.
The judges said in a one-paragraph order, without comment, that a court-appointed mediator needs more time to seek agreement on how the state should reduce inmate crowding.
The delay signals that the judges see some progress in talks orchestrated by state Appellate Judge Peter Siggins, based on his confidential report and recommendations to the court. It comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal of the lower court's order requiring the state to reduce crowding to improve conditions for sick and mentally ill inmates.
However, Michael Bien, one of the attorneys representing inmates, said that to his knowledge there have been no face-to-face meetings with Gov. Jerry Brown's administration, nor are any scheduled.
"Justice Siggins is a very experienced mediator and we assume that he sees a reason to continue the process. Based on that, we're hopeful,'' Bien said.
Spokesmen for the administration and state corrections department did not immediately comment.
Brown and state lawmakers want a three-year delay to give proposed rehabilitation programs time to work. Under a new state law, the alternative is to spend $315 million this fiscal year to house thousands of inmates in private prisons and county jails.
The judges pushed back the deadline until late February for meeting an earlier population-reduction goal.
The court ordered the mediator to provide a mid-November update to say if negotiations are still productive.