California is Ordered to Cut Prison Population by 10,000 Inmates

Mike O'Brien

The state of California has been ordered to cut its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year.

The order, issued by a three-judge panel, stipulates that the number of inmates in state prisons should be reduced from the present 150 percent overcapacity to 137.5 percent.

It comes after years of legal wrangling over the chronic state of California’s correctional system.

In 2011 the Supreme Court said California had violated the ban on cruel and unusual punishment, adding that its prison system was unconstitutional.

California is the only state to have sparked federal involvement over prison conditions, but in its defense the state has argued that the situation behind bars has improved in recent years.

Don Specter, of the Prison Law Office, which provides free legal advice to California inmates, played down the significance of the order.

He told "Prisoners are released every single day. This is not a dramatic number of prisoners."

In response to the three-judge panel’s ruling, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it will take the following steps:

  • Release more than 600 prisoners who are low risk or have earned "good time credits" for good behavior.
  • Transfer about 1,700 inmates to a new prison that is due to open this month.
  • Send 1,250 inmates to "conservation" or "fire camps" to fight fires.
  • Lease around 1,600 cells in county jails.
  • Send an unspecified number of low-risk offenders to community correctional facilities.
  • Develop and expand rehabilitative programs.

However, the order has already been met with some resistance from state lawmakers who are pushing for a stay of execution and, if that request is requested, an appeal to the Supreme Court.