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Calif. to boost inmate health by easing overcrowding

California Healthline

On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) offered federal judges a new plan to reduce California’s prison population by about 40,000 inmates over the next two years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In August, a three-judge panel ruled that California’s overcrowded prison conditions contributed to a level of health care that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution.

The panel ordered the state to reduce the prison population from 150,000 to 110,000 over two years (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/13).

In September, Schwarzenegger submitted a plan that fell short of the mandated 40,000 reduction. The judges rejected the proposal and ordered the administration to develop a new plan by this week.

Although the governor submitted his new plan on Thursday, Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said the administration will continue fighting the court’s order with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Plan Details
Schwarzenegger’s latest plan aims to reduce the state’s prison population by:

* Building new prisons;
* Paroling nonviolent inmates early;
* Sending inmates to private prisons;
* Shifting certain inmates to local facilities; and
* Transferring inmates out of state (Mintz, San Jose Mercury News, 11/12).

However, the governor noted that the plan could violate some state laws and circumvent the Legislature. He said that if the Legislature does not approve the new prison construction, the judges might need to bypass state regulations.

California legislators previously rejected several prison population reduction measures during budget negotiations this summer (Rothfield, Los Angeles Times, 11/13).

Don Specter, director of the Prison Law Office, said he and the other attorneys representing the inmates likely would accept the majority of Schwarzenegger’s new plan (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/12).