The United States Supreme Court will review California’s appeal of a court order that requires the removal or release 0f nearly 40,000 inmates from that state’s 33 prisons. A special three-judge federal court panel ruled last year that overcrowding in the prison system has led to inadequate health care, which violates the constitutional rights of inmates.
The California prisons have a total capacity of about 80,000 but has been housing more than twice that number in recent years. Currently, there are approximately 149,000 inmates in the state. In January, the federal judges accepted a plan proposed by the administration to reduce the number of state prisoners to 110,000.
California has been complying with the court order, which wants the reduction made by 2011, even while appealing. The state has made changes to its policies regarding sentencing and parole and transferred some inmates to other states. California proposes reducing the inmate population through early release of some non-violent prisoners, diverting some 20,000 people either to local jails or to house arrest, building a new prison medical facility, and sending inmates to private prisons located in other states. At this point, 8,500 prisoners have been transferred out-of-state.
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