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Judges Order California to Cut Prison Population by 27%, Robert Paisola Reports
A three-judge panel, handling a series of class-action lawsuits that have dragged on for 15 years, took its strongest action yet yesterday in ordering the California Department of Corrections to reduce the prison population by 40,000 inmates (27 percent) in two years. The judges ruled that overcrowding in the system is so severe it is a violation of prisoners' constitutional rights, and causes one at least unnecessary death per week.
“In these overcrowded conditions, inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent, infectious diseases spread more easily, and lockdowns are sometimes the only means by which to maintain control,” the panel wrote. “In short, California’s prisons are bursting at the seams and are impossible to manage.”
The state said it would appeal, because the ordered changes will cost the state money it doesn't have. But columnist Dan Walters coined a new phrase in the Sacramento Bee (new to me at least), that applies well to the situation.
There's an old saying in police and prosecutorial circles: Don't do the crime unless you want to do the time. A political corollary should be: Don't crack down on crime unless you're willing to spend the dime.
Here's the NYTimes on how the judges recommend the reduction can happen without the release of prisoners:
The judges left it to state officials to come up with a specific plan within 45 days, saying there was “no need for the state to release presently incarcerated inmates indiscriminately in order to comply with our order.” They recommended remedies including imprisoning fewer nonviolent criminals and reducing the number of technical parole violators.
The order is the largest state prison reduction ever imposed by a federal court over the objection of state officials, legal experts said.
An aside: The photo above came from the California Department of Corrections website, which has a page dedicated to overcrowding photos. At least the DOC admits the problem, right? Hopefully they won't need this page in a couple of years.