U.S. judges give California six more months to cut inmate population
By Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 – 7:33 am
Three weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state’s prison overcrowding crisis over, a court of three federal judges said Tuesday that state officials can have six more months to reduce the inmate population to the previously ordered level.
The judges noted that California officials have said they cannot meet the court’s June 30 deadline for reducing its population to 137.5 percent of design capacity, but the officials believe they can hit that mark by Dec. 31.
“Accordingly, this court modifies the June 30, 2011, order by granting defendants a six-month extension in which to comply with its terms and provisions,” said the order from 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento and U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson of San Francisco.
Karlton and Henderson have overseen years of litigation aimed at bringing the level of mental and medical health care for inmates up to constitutional standards. Following a trial, the three-judge court appointed by the 9th Circuit’s chief judge ruled that the crowded conditions of the state’s 33 adult prisons were the primary reason for the unconstitutional care.
Prisoners were jammed into areas of the prisons not designed for housing. At some points, the number of inmates ballooned to double the designed capacity, and the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the three-judge court’s order.
Since the governor instituted his so-called realignment program a year ago to divert nonviolent, nonserious offenders to county jurisdictions, the state has made progress cutting the prison population, but Brown said he cannot release additional inmates without putting the public at risk.
Corrections officials indicated they are pleased with Tuesday’s order but are still not satisfied.
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