Federal court orders state to reduce prison population by 40,000 inmates

Atty. Gen Brown plans to appeal ruling directly to U.S. Supreme Court

A panel of three federal judges ordered the state Tuesday to reduce the population of its overcrowded prisons by 40,591 inmates within two years to correct what the panel called "woefully and constitutionally inadequate" health care.

But state Attorney General Jerry Brown said the order will not result in the immediate release of any of the state's 150,354 inmates in 33 adult prisons. He plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the ruling.

In a scathing 184-page order, the three-judge court said there is overwhelming evidence that severe overcrowding is the primary cause of deficient medical and mental health care.

The panel wrote, "The convergence of tough-on-crime policies and an unwillingness to expend the necessary funds to support the population growth has brought California's prisons to the breaking point."

The order requires state officials to reduce the population of California's 33 adult prisons to 137.5 percent of capacity, or from 150,000 inmates to 110,000, within two years.

The prisons were built for 80,000 inmates and currently are filled to 188 percent, or nearly double, the planned capacity.

The panel gave the state 45 days to come up with a plan.

Matthew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling was made in two long-running civil rights lawsuits in which inmates claimed that medical and mental health care was so poor it violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The three judges were U.S. District Judges Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento, who are presiding over the two lawsuits, and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

The decision finalizes a tentative ruling issued by the panel in February. The earlier ruling was the first time a three-judge court had held a trial and issued a prison population reduction order. Other cases had ended in settlements before trial.

Bay City News, Jeb Bing

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Like this comment
Posted by Frank Courser
a resident of Oak Hill
on Aug 5, 2009 at 8:50 am

This case had gone on for years, yet the legislature and the governor has had no impetus to make any change what so ever. It has been a case of deliberate indifference on the part of the department of corrections, much due to the ban on the media which has reduced media access to the population. The real problem is the lack of sentencing reform that has been so badly needed. Special interest has pushed for years longer and more punitive sentences with fear tactics and flat out misinformation. Three Strikes was a classic example where all that was mentioned were violent offenders, 15 years later we see 2/3’s are non- violent offenders! This lock em up and throw away the key approach has broken the system and created massive incarceration of low level offenders doing double time or life for simple drug possession or shoplifting. When will the legislature stop bending to special interest and finally look at real sentencing reform? How long is long enough?

Like this comment
Posted by Timothy T
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:13 am

Wait. Isn't prison supposed to suck?

Like this comment
Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 5, 2009 at 11:53 am

Is it 40k or 43k as reported by the PW at this Web Link ??

Not only do they disclose poster's real names, but they can't keep their own reported statistics consistent.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Great, my friend got sentenced a couple years ago to 31 years and I miss him already. Sounds like he should could be home soon. Just FYI, this isn't a bad thing. Our tax dollars go into keeping some people locked away WAY too long. We need to address the fine line between "rehabilitation" and "punishment".

Like this comment
Posted by Home Owner
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Buying a dog and a gun....

Like this comment
Posted by RYAN
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 9, 2009 at 9:18 am

Good article. Sounds like you have it right. The guards are very angry right now over all of this and are taking their anger out on the prisoners. At Sierra Conservation Center the inmates were made to stand in the hot afternoon sun for four hours while the guards tore up their cells for a radio that was missing from a guard. That is a lie, inmates are not interested in a guards radio.

Like this comment
Posted by CHARLES
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

yes ! if you think the guards are mad at inmates this is true ..guards are at the news site online showing there hate for inmates and there familyss

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

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