Court orders reduction in prison population

Tentative ruling made because of health concerns brought on by overcrowding

A three-judge federal panel has tentatively ruled that the population of California's severely overcrowded prisons must be reduced by approximately 34,000 to 55,000 inmates to correct constitutionally inadequate health care.

The panel said there is "overwhelming evidence that crowding is the primary cause" of deficient medical and mental health care that falls below constitutional standards.

It also said the evidence from a trial last year is "compelling that there is no relief other than a prisoner release order that will remedy the unconstitutional prison conditions."

The state's 33 adult prisons are currently filled to close to 200 percent of capacity, housing about 156,000 inmates in facilities originally built for 84,000.

The three judges said that capping the population at 120 to 145 percent of capacity within two or three years appeared necessary to provide minimally adequate health care.

The panel said there appear to be several ways the population could be reduced without endangering public safety. These include parole reforms, diverting low-risk prisoners with short sentences into other programs, giving prisoners credit for good behavior and constructing new prisons, the court said.

The panel of U.S. District Judges Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt was convened to consider claims by inmates in two long-running civil rights lawsuits that a release of prisoners was the only way to bring about adequate health care.

Under a federal law governing prison litigation, an order for release of prisoners can be made only by a three-judge panel and not by a federal trial judge alone.

The tentative ruling is the first time a three-judge panel acting under the Prison Litigation Reform Act has held a trial and issued a prisoner release order. Other cases have ended in settlements before trial.

The judges said they were issuing the 10-page tentative ruling to allow the parties in the case, including state prison officials, "to plan accordingly."

They asked state officials to advise the court how they plan to reduce the population within two or three years. An additional hearing may be held before the court issues its final order, the panel said.

Donald Specter, a lawyer for inmates, said, "We're thrilled. We think the court made the right decision under the law."

Specter said, "The state has known for many years that crowding is out of control and is crippling the prison system."

Matthew Cate, secretary of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said, "We are reviewing the tentative ruling by a panel of federal judges. Obviously, the governor and I strongly disagree with the panel's conclusions and our response will be based on how best to protect the public from a court-ordered release of prisoners."


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Posted by Clint
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:09 am

Only 55,000 prisoners to release? No problem. Send one home with each city councilperson in the state and 5 with each state legislator. Should fix the problem just fine.

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Posted by Jose
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:41 am

Perhaps we should deport all of the illegals in the prisons and tighten up our boarders so they can't come back. That would take care of a lot of them.

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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:51 am you really want to deport all of the illgals in US prisons? Not only will that deprive them of free medical, dental & optical care, it would cost the US multi-millions to deport them. They will be back in the US within days.

My advice, don't open your front door to speak with solicitors. You must feel helpless knowing that there is NOTHING that you and your fellow citizens can do to solve the problem. It's not a priority for the US to rid itself of "illegals".

One more thing, President Obama is going to grant AMNESTY to "illegals" that are helping sustain our economy! Get used to it!!!

ps What about GITMO? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...?

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Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Jose -- My Thoughts Exactly!

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Posted by JACKIE HOY
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2009 at 7:29 am

Yes I agree with their decision of reducing prison time in California. I also feel they should do the same in other States (Federal Prisons). I feel anyone with Methamphetamine or any other drug charges should be put in strict Rehabilitation for a minimum of 6-12 months. There are many drug offenders wanting the help, but are too weak, putting it nicely, knowing the drug is actually controlling their body, mind and soul. They cannot function without it, and nothing else matters, their children, their family, self-worth, it’s heartbreaking. Their consequences should still be prison time after rehabilitation. The inmates should be offered educational programs and vocational training along with labor-skill opportunities as a reward system. This will improve their self-worth and make the time spent go more rapidly. I feel the intelligent ones will take advantage of this opportunity with improving their life skills. I feel the maximum should be 3-5 years, rather than 10 years that my son is facing from Iowa.

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Posted by Amy
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Feb 15, 2009 at 7:37 am

Jackie I am sorry for you and your family.

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Posted by stayhomedad
a resident of Valley Trails
on Feb 15, 2009 at 7:45 am

My good friend just got sentenced to 31 years. This is great news. See you soon old friend.

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Posted by jon wayne
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm

We should get rid of the 55,000 prisoners and then lock up the ones who have created this mess in the 1st place, the law makers! who have for more then 30yrs put special interest infront of the good of calif all in the so called name of public safty. We the citizens of Ca. are reaping the bad poilcies of the past 30 plus years pushed by none other then the gate keepers them selve, the ccpoa.whom our law makers alowed to have it there way far to long. one must ask why is it that cailf prison population has grown so fast over the years and senteces have gotten longer and longer wit little or no benfit to its taxpaeyer, yet we have the largest recdvist in the country. other states wit similar populations make wit a far smaller prison system & lower crime & recdvist rate. it is time to face facts our prison system is broken and in need of a serious over hall. we need to go back to what works, rehabilitation, drug treatment, we need to get smart on crime not just tough. so don't get mad at the judges for holding up the law, our constitution and trying to doing the right thing and dealing wit the problem at hand instead of ingnoring a crisis. so get mad at those (your law makers) who have made this the mess it is & demand that they fix this problem instead of pointing the finger and passing the problem onto the next guy.

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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:54 pm

How about we get mad at the people that couldn't live within the law and are causing the crowding...

Whether it's 10 years in Iowa or 31 years where ever, if that's the sentence so be it. Was an arm twisted to force someone to break the law??? Doubtful...

Play by the rules, the path an overwhelming majority of citizens have chosen, and you won't be part of the overcrowding...

Send them to Arizona where they can be guest of Sheriff Joe...:)

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Posted by jon wayne
a resident of another community
on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm

well jerry that's fine if your willing to spend the money, I guess your the type that just wants to get tough on crime and not be smart about crime. it is that exact attiude that has us spending over 11 billion on corrections a year, now does that sound smart to anyone? we are now spending more on our prisons then we do on higher education. that just seems very wrong to me. again we can get smart about crime or we can continue with the attiude of our friend jerry and just be tough on crime and lock up all the pizza theifs for life. hey if we shut down a few more universities we might even afford to lock up repeat j walkers for life. come on people we need to get real about how we incarcerate. being tough on crime has not paid off for any of us in calif. unless ur a prison guard making $80,000 a year.

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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 19, 2009 at 12:58 am

jon wayne,

You bet, I believe in law and order... If one doesn't wish to be incarcerated, simply live by the rules of a civilized society. There's a reason we have laws - they weren't simply pulled out of the air...

Please enlighten everyone as to how you would "get real with how we incarcerate"... How does one "be smart about crime"???

I would venture to guess "being tough on crime" has prevented many from becoming a crime victim. You can't continue to commit crimes against civilized society if you're behind bars...

If your $80,000 is correct, you couldn't pay me $100,000 a year to deal with some of the animals incarcerated in California...

It would be interesting to see the actual statistics on repeat offenders that have been "rehabilitated". Not long ago I read about a couple that didn't stay "rehabilitated" very long. Seems they needed a little old lady's money more than she did, but I guess that's ok since they didn't kill her, just put her in the hospital for awhile. Something about needing more street corner drugs...

How do we "smartly" handle that situtation...

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Posted by jon, wayne
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

well jerry, 1st of all throwing money at the problem hasint worked thus far, calif. has the highest recdivest rate in the nation at close to 93% and we spend the more money (11 billion) to incarcerate then any other state or country as far as I know. yet our recdvist
rate is higher then any other state. so how is that being smart or even law & order. if our goal is to spend enormous amounts of money on nothing but punishment with everyone getting out of prison reoffending & repesting the same mistakes that got them in prison then our system is a huge secess, but if ur goal is to reduce crime and lower the recdvist rate and have less victims like the elderly lady u spoke of then we have failed our mission. jerry I agree wit u people who commit violent acts should be put in prison for a very long time, but with that said someday they will get out so do we just leave them inside sitting in a cell all day or do we make an honest atempt to train them and show them a better way of living. if u kick a dog in a cage all day u better bet that when he gets out he is going to try to bite u. lets try & decide who we want to keep in prison insead of locking up every petty criminal 4 life. or giving out 20yrs for simple property crimes. lets go back to our rehabilitation system that we had 30 yrs ago and only had a recdvist rate of about 53% before we got dumb on crime & made it all about tough on crime.

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Posted by ?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 11:36 am

You're smarter than that Jon, right? Are you content with the theory: that our justice system was working just fine 30 years ago, then we got "tough on crime " and changed the whole system for no reason? It was an idea founded in optimism, and ended in disaster. We have already been down your road of 'rehabilitation' before and it was corrupted by the criminals it was designed to help.
Just for my own peace of mind...Have any of you ever studied the criminal justice system or have any of you ever been incarcerated at any level? I just want to know HOW you guys came to your positions. What experiances have you guys had?

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Posted by jon wayne
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2009 at 1:24 pm

yes I hold to the theory that our justice system was much better 30yrs ago, might not have been perfect but was much healthier then it is today. yes I beleive when u commit a crime u should be held accountable, but I also beleive that the crime should fit the time. I also think that our prisons r a complete mess and need an overhaul, again look at the numbers they don't lie, 93% return to prison with in 3 years. before we wrote rehabilitation out of our system our recdvist rate was around 56%. folks we are spending 11 billion a year on our prison system. and if we keep going down the road we are going that 11 billion will soon turn into 22 billion. something is very wrong with this pic. tough on crime policies and mass incarceration as a hole is a complete failure. why do you think we have a three judge panel ready to take our prison system from the state? it sure because they love convected felons, they are going to take our prison system out of the states controll because the state law makers have created this mess thru 30yrs of bad policy. so yes I beleive the system of yesterday was far better then the system of today.

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Posted by ?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Well put, I hope you don't think I'm trying to antagonize you. This is a subject of much interest to me. What kind of rehabilitation would you like to see implemented. They already have countless programs and classes for inmates. All they have to do is sign up (and behave.) There are subjects from everything across the board. Now if you make these programs mandatory, then inmates will not cooperate and that defeats the purpose of education. Then the success rates will fall. Soon, the programs will be cut to save wasted money.
Whats that old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve the system.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Overcrowding in California prisons stems from California parole law. It's not talk about releasing hardened criminals nor the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs. The high recidivist rate is colored by the problems with parole law.

Web Link

"California – unlike almost any other state – will send somebody back to prison who's on parole for what's called a technical violation. Something as simple as missing a meeting with your parole officer."

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Posted by Lucky Guy
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Lucky Guy is a registered user.

Do like they do in Arizona--tent cities baby!!!! Place them in the desert. The scumbags deserve no more and most have rap sheets longer than their arms.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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