A panel of three federal judges Thursday ordered California to start making plans to reduce the state’s prison population. The judges cited a ruling two years ago by the Supreme Court that the conditions in California prisons are tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment because of overcrowding. The judges had ruled in 2009 that the health care in prisons is so poor that it is considered unconstitutional.
The three judges said they expect for capacity to be down to 137 percent from the 150 percent at which the prisons are currently operating by the end of the year. That’s a reduction of nearly 10,000 inmates. California Governor Jerry Brown has been fighting previous court orders for the release of inmates and has challenged the cap on state prison populations. Brown said the state will “seek an immediate stay of this unprecedented order.”
The judges contend that the release of the prisoners will not pose any threat to the public, noting that one way for the population to be reduced is to create a “low-risk list” of inmates who may be eligible for early release.
How can the state effectively do this without risking public safety? What is the best way to go about releasing the inmates? Should there be a cap on the prison population?
Don Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, the law firm that filed one of the suits the federal judges were responding to with their ruling
Linda Penner, chief probation officer for Fresno County