A panel of federal court judges has issued a tentative ruling that could result in the release of as many as 57,000 inmates throughout California's prison system -- about one-third of prisoners in the state -- a decision aimed at reducing dangerous overcrowding and relieving unconstitutional confinement conditions.
In considering inmates' challenges to the constitutionality of overcrowded conditions in California's prisons, the three federal court judges heard from a number of expert witnesses, and considering the statistics -- such as the fact that the state’s prisons were operating at near 200 percent of design capacity as of August 2008. The evidence of constitutionally inadequate health care and mental health services led the panel to decide "given the evidence presented to this Court, that an order imposing a cap on the prison population and requiring the State to adopt a course of action to reduce overcrowding is warranted" under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The panel declared that it was issuing a tentative ruling "in order to give the parties notice" of a probable prisoner release order,and to "allow them to plan accordingly."
According to the Los Angeles Times: "If the state is ordered to reduce the prison population, it would likely be able to do so over two or three years, so it would not have to release large numbers of inmates at once. Some methods of cutting the population include limiting new admissions, changing policies so parole violators return to prison less frequently, and giving prisoners more time off of their sentences for good behavior and rehabilitation efforts."