U.S. Supreme Court to review order to reduce state's prison population

Schwarzenegger appeals ruling to trim overcrowding by 40,000 inmates

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a lower court order requiring the state of California to reduce the population of its overcrowded prisons by 40,000 within two years.

The order was issued in January by a three-judge federal panel, which said a decrease was needed to correct "woefully and constitutionally inadequate" medical and mental health care for inmates.

It was appealed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration, which claims the panel didn't have the authority to order a population reduction.

"We are pleased the U.S. Supreme Court will hear our appeal,"

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola said. "We continue to believe federal judges do not have the authority to order the early release of prisoners in our state."

The state's 33 adult prisons now house nearly 150,000 inmates in facilities built for 80,000.

The lower court panel issued its order in connection with two long-running civil rights lawsuits in which inmates claim that prison medical and mental health care is so deficient it amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

The panel, made up of two federal trial judges and one federal appeals court judge, concluded that severe overcrowding was the chief cause of inadequate health care.

It said reducing the prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity, or to 110,000, was the only effective remedy, and that it believed it was possible to do so without harming public safety.

The panel was convened under the U.S. Prison Litigation Reform

Act, which provides that a court order to reduce prison population can be made only by a three-judge panel and not by a single federal judge presiding over a civil rights lawsuit.

"We think that when the Supreme Court hears all the facts of the case and understands what the three-judge panel did, it will uphold the order," Donald Specter, a lawyer representing inmates in both cases, said,

The case will be argued during the high court's next term, which begins in October. A hearing date has not yet been set.

In the meantime, the three-judge panel has stayed its order until the high court rules.

Two of the judges on the lower court panel, U.S. District Judges

Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento, are presiding over the two inmate lawsuits. The third judge is 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Charlie T.
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

If they would go ahead and carry out the death sentences on the 700 murderers that have been on death row for years (some decades) it would free some space and save the taxpayers about a $100 million/year. Cut all the craziness about a humane methods of execution. Its easy to built a device that puts a large caliber bullet right through the brain, and the murderer never realizes what hit them.

Like this comment
Posted by Budget & Crimes
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:49 am

The underlying issue is financial.

Here's a fast Goggle Search: CDCR Budget Information For Fiscal Year 2007-2008, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) was allocated a total of $9,776,618,000.

That is a lot of money. So, is the question: personal safety versus being taxed to death? Reducing the prison population is tricky but it is also very expensive. I wish I knew the answer on this one.

Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 15, 2010 at 2:46 pm

oh come don't mean it Charlie T...a sissy like you...have you ever even seen a gun?

put on you pigtails and play skip to my lu...

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm

We should outsource our entire prison system to some midwest state. Solves two problems - ends the out of control compensation for prison guards/employees and gets the criminals out of California.

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

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Couples: Reading List
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 804 views

Castlewood members considering offer from Bay Club
By Tim Hunt | 0 comments | 654 views