Federal judges approve California's plan to cut prison population

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Inmates at the Mule Creek State Prison interact in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners August 28, 2007 in Ione, California.

A panel of three federal judges approved California's plan to cut its prison population by 40,000 inmates over the next couple of years.

In November, California officials said they could comply with a federal court order to cut the number of inmates in the state’s overcrowded prison system by 44,000.

But they said the only way to reach that number is to circumvent the state legislature and state law.

In court papers filed then, the Schwarzenegger Administration asserted that to achieve the prison reductions the federal judges want, the legislature must change state law – or the federal judges must waive it.

The three federal judges rejected an earlier state proposal that would have reduced the inmate population by only half what the judges wanted.

Corrections Secretary Mathew Cate said the Administration produced the new plan as ordered, but will not endorse it.

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