California officials to submit revised plan to reduce overcrowding in prisons

Inmates at Chino State Prison in Chino, CA walk the hallway.
Inmates at Chino State Prison in Chino, CA walk the hallway.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

California officials are under a deadline to submit a revised plan by midnight Monday to reduce overcrowding in prisons.

In 2009, a trio of federal judges ruled that crowded conditions in California’s 33 prisons prevented inmates from receiving adequate healthcare and ordered the state to ease the problem within two years. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the order in 2011. But late last year the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation asked for more time and more flexibility, saying their plan to reduce the inmate population would fall short.

In 2011, state lawmakers enacted a law that shifts responsibility for tens of thousands of felons to counties. But in court papers filed late last year, attorneys for the state said the realignment law – which has reduced the state's prison population by 24, 447 – would fall short of the full reductions ordered by the court. The judges ordered officials to reduce the inmate population to 137.5 percent of the prison system’s design capacity.

In 2006, when attorneys for inmates first filed the motion for the population reduction, California packed its prisons with double the number of inmates for which they were designed. Various changes to state law, and shifting inmates to private prisons out of state, that population has fallen nearly every year since, but not by enough to comply with the court order.

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On December 5, 2012, the prisons held 119,741 inmates, the equivalent of 150.1 percent of design capacity.

California’s asked the federal judges for an extra year to achieve the reductions.

The judges ordered state officials to submit a revised plan by January 7 that spells out what extra steps they plan to take to achieve the reductions by the original deadline, and by an extended deadline. They’ve also asked the state to explain what they plan to do with the 10,000 California prisoners transferred to private prisons out of state. Last year, the Brown Administration planned to recall those inmates to cut costs.