SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown’s choice to lead California’s beleaguered prisons is a former critic who now says the system is more “nimble” and responsive after years of federal court oversight.

Jeffrey Beard, a former head of the Pennsylvania prison system, told The Associated Press in an interview that conditions for inmates have improved so much that California should no longer be required to reduce its prison population to the level being required by the courts.

The state’s 33 adult prisons hold about 119,000 inmates, about 9,000 more than the court-ordered limit.

But Beard told the AP that the state’s efforts to reduce its prison population were historic and that the system is far better positioned to provide proper medical and mental health care to its inmates.

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